FEB 17, 2018 12:35 PM PST

Heroin Vaccine Treats Addiction and Lethal Overdose

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

After five years of optimizing, researchers from the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have come up with the best candidate for a heroin vaccine. The new drug, composed of three key ingredients, could treat the addiction to heroin and prevent lethal overdose.

"We believe that a heroin vaccine would be tremendously beneficial for people who have a heroin substance use disorder but have found difficulty in trying to quit,” explained first author Candy S. Hwang, PhD.

The vaccine is built by binding a heroin molecule to a protein recognized by the immune system. The heroin molecule does not trigger an immune reaction on its own. When the vaccine initiates an immune response, antibodies are produced that bind to heroin molecules that build up when a person is using the drug. The antibody binding prevents the drug from reaching the brain and causing a high.

In theory, without the high, drug users won’t be tempted to use the drug. The heroin vaccine also prevents lethal overdose by preventing the drug from reaching the brain. Additionally, an adjuvant is added to the vaccine to make the immune response even stronger.

In the new study, researchers assessed the ability of 20 different protein/adjuvant combinations. They were looking for the pair best able to provide shelf stability, measured based on temperature and storage time.

"Our goal was to prepare a vaccine that could be advanced to clinical trials,” Hwang explained. “As such, we were looking for the best combination of [heroin], carrier protein and adjuvant to keep the vaccine both stable for transport and storage but still efficacious."

They found that the best candidate was a combination between the carrier protein tetanus toxoid (TT) and two adjuvants, alum and CpG ODN. And in fact, alum is one of only a handful of adjuvants already approved by the FDA to be included in vaccines.

By confirming that the drug’s ingredients are effective, safe, and stable, researchers are on the brink of bringing their new heroin vaccine to human clinical trials.

Researchers report that almost 16,000 deaths from heroin overdose occurred in the United States between 2000 and 2016, and that number is only expected to rise, faster and faster.

The present study was published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.

Source: The Scripps Research Institute

 
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 19, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
JUL 19, 2019
Possible Non-Hormonal Treatment For Endometriosis On Horizon
With over 200,000 cases reported annually, endometriosis is a big concern in women’s health. Scientists don’t yet know what causes the painful ...
JUL 19, 2019
Cardiology
JUL 19, 2019
Heart Conditions Amongst The Most Misdiagnosed
There are a massive number of diseases that a person can acquire. This can make the idea of diagnosing a disease accurately seem like a daunting task. Shoc...
AUG 14, 2019
Health & Medicine
AUG 14, 2019
New drug to treat opioid use disorder during pregnancy is favorable for mom, and baby
On average, a baby is born in withdrawal from opioids every 15 minutes in the U.S., according to recent research. Opioid use during pregnancy can result in...
AUG 23, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
AUG 23, 2019
Are Anti-Ebola Drugs Effective?
A deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) caused by the Ebola virus triggers hemorrhagic fever in humans and some monkeys. The disease is highly infectious and is...
SEP 11, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 11, 2019
Diagnosis and Treatment of Neurosarcoidosis
Sarcoidosis is a multisystem inflammatory disease characterized by the formation of non-caseating granulomas in the affected organs. The majority of p...
NOV 02, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
NOV 02, 2019
Forecasting Chronic Pain
Chronic pain comes in many forms. Over half of those suffering from chronic pain, say they experience life-altering levels of pain on a daily basis. Many s...
Loading Comments...