New Heroin Vaccine Could Stop Drug Abuse by Blocking High, Study Finds

After successful trials in non-human primates, a vaccine that could be used to treat heroin addicts may officially be on the way, IFLScience reports. Developed at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), the serum blocks the “high” of the opioid. So far, it’s been shown to be effective up to eight months after being injected. Read on below to find out more.

The vaccine. After successful trials in non-human primates, a vaccine that could be used to treat heroin addicts may officially be on the way, IFLScience reports. The vaccine was developed at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), and has been shown to be effective up to eight months after being administered. Now, it’s being deemed as the cure to the current heroin epidemic in the U.S.

How it works. So, exactly how does the vaccine work? According to IFLScience, the neutralizing serum “blocks the ‘high’ of heroin”— we’ll get into the specifics later on.

First vaccine. As IFLScience reports, the vaccine is the first ever to pass this stage of testing— thus, it’s a major deal. As a result, researchers now hope they will finally be approved to move on to clinical testing. After that, they hope to get it out on the market in order to help addicts.

How it works pt2. In terms of specifics, the vaccine works by “teaching the immune system to produce antibodies against heroin, and the psychoactive products within it that cause the high users experience,” IFLScience reports. This is done by exposing the immune system to part of the opioid’s molecule’s structure.

How it works pt2. Then, the next time heroin is introduced into the body, the newly created antibodies will attack it, thereby neutralizing the drug’s molecules. “Users (in this trial, rhesus monkeys) don’t feel the euphoria from heroin, because the heroin molecules are blocked before they can reach the brain,” IFLScience explains.

Previous data. The study leader revealed that the new findings validate previous data on the matter. “This validates our previous rodent data and positions our vaccine in a favorable light for anticipated clinical evaluation,” study leader Kim Janda said in a statement, according to IFLScience. “We believe this vaccine candidate will prove safe for human trials.”

Purpose. Overall, researchers hope to use the vaccine in order to treat heroin addicts. They plan to do this by “removing the high they get from the drug, and their motivation for taking the drug at all,” IFLScience reports. This in turn could help prevent releases in recovering addicts.

Trial. According to IFLScience, the trial saw non-human primates— rhesus monkeys, to be exact — injected with the vaccine. They were then given doses of heroin. (Whether or not this is ethical is an entirely different discussion.)

Findings. After giving the primates doses of heroin, researchers discovered that four of the monkeys that were given three doses of the vaccine had a positive immune response, IFLScience reports. Meaning, that, the immune response could neutralize various doses of heroin— a.k.a. it could work in humans.

Findings. That said, the vaccine was found to be most effective the first month after vaccination. Nonetheless, as IFLScience reports, the effect could last for over eight months.

Monkeys. According to IFLScience, half of the primates tested (a total of four) had been pre-vaccinated with the same vaccine in a previous study. “Raising hopes of an effective long-term vaccine for heroin, these two monkeys showed a much higher response to the vaccine in this second round of experiments,” IFLScience reports.

Humans. Of course, if this effect is replicated in people, it means that humans addicted to heroin could be given long-term immunity to the drug. Overall, this would be amazing in terms of helping addicts with their recovery.

Research. Published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the research focused on heroin only. Seemingly, it wouldn’t be effective against other drugs (read: opioids).

Other research. In the past, similar studies have been conducted with positive results. For instance, as IFLScience notes, “a previous study by TSRI showed that a vaccine for ‘designer drug’ Fentanyl was effective in mice.”

Future research. So, what’s next for the TSRI team? Namely, the researchers hope to license the vaccine to an outside company for partnering in clinical trials. Then, hopefully, the serum will be able to cure the U.S.’ current drug epidemic.

Source : RebelCircus