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.