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Methamphetamine vaccine looking likely; scientists set sights on human trials

A methamphetamine vaccine administered to rats has completed its initial rounds of testing successfully, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) shared on Nov. 1. The effective blockage of meth highs in rodents facilitated by the vaccine could reasonably transpire to human subjects — the hope being that eventually behavioral changes within addicts will perpetuate, aiding in a more persistent commitment to recovery amongst the demographic.

[See also: New painkiller regimen could put end to addiction and aches]

Moreover, if the human trials are as fruitful as those conducted with rodents, the vaccine would be the first medication specifically reserved for treating methamphetamine addiction — an ailment affecting approximately 25 million people worldwide.

“This is an early-stage study, but its results are comparable to those for other drug vaccines that have then gone to clinical trials,” said Michael A. Taffe, an associate professor in TSRI’s Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders, in a news release.

Development of addiction-aimed vaccines has taken years, with specialists from TSRI and several other institutions designing administrator medications that would serve as antibodies for meth which, due to its complexity, passes through the immune system undetected.

“The simple structure and long half-life of this drug make it a particularly difficult vaccine target,” said Kim Janda, the Ely R. Callaway, Jr. Professor of Chemistry and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at TSRI, in the release.

Six candidate vaccines in total were developed by the TSRI team with the essential active ingredient cognate; beginning tests on mice narrowed the strong options down to three, with rat testing leaving one vaccine the victor. MH6 obstructed two major meth effects: “an increase in physical activity and a loss of the usual ability to regulate body temperature.”

“I think that this vaccine has all the right features to allow it to move forward in development,” Janda said. “It certainly works better than the other active vaccines for meth that have been reported so far.”

“These are encouraging results that we’d like to follow up with further animal tests, and, we hope, with clinical tests in humans some day,” added Research Associate Michelle L. Miller, lead author of the study.

Animal test results conducted by a different collective of researchers has yielded another set of promising outcomes for an antibody-based approach. Such an approach — used in cancer and chronic immunological condition treatment — utilizes anti-meth antibodies grown in cultured cells via biotechnology; cells are then injected into animal subjects in concentrated doses and the meth high is cut off. Similar TSRI-formatted vaccines are also said to be in the works for cocaine and nicotine.

Find more information about the testing report “A Methamphetamine Vaccine Attenuates Methamphetamine-Induced Disruptions in Thermoregulation and Activity in Rats,” here.

The study was funded through a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  

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