A promising nicotine vaccine to help smokers overcome their addiction has been developed by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). Researcher Kim Janda said, "This study provides new hope that one could make a nicotine vaccine that succeeds in clinical trials."
Nicotine vaccines train the body to look at nicotine as a foreign invader. To prompt an immune response, scientists tried attaching nicotine derivatives called 'haptens' to a larger carrier protein used in other approved vaccines. The body reacts to the vaccine by creating antibodies that bind specifically to nicotine molecules. When a vaccinated person later consumes tobacco, the anti-nicotine antibodies stop the nicotine molecules from entering the central nervous system and reaching the brain. During this study, the researchers elicited a more robust antibody response by creating a vaccine from only left-handed nicotine haptens.
With the vaccine there would still be withdrawal symptoms. But, a person may be less motivated to relapse because the brain's reward system could no longer react to nicotine.
The study appears in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.