Scientists seeking to vaccinate against heroin addiction are now one step closer, with the vaccine proving to be effective in monkeys.
The team from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has been working on the project for over eight years. They are trying to block the ‘high’ caused by heroin, which they believe will help stop recovering heroin addicts from relapsing.
“We were really encouraged to see the vaccine produce such lasting effects in non-human primate models,” said the study’s first author Paul Bremer in an announcement from TSRI.
The vaccine works by exposing the immune system to a part of the heroin molecule’s telltale structure. This teaches the immune system to produce antibodies against heroin and its psychoactive products. The antibodies neutralise heroin molecules, blocking them from reaching the brain to cause a feeling of euphoria.
“We believe this vaccine candidate will prove safe for human trials,” said study leader Kim Janda.
This is the first vaccine against heroin to succeed in primate models.
According to the recently released UN World Drug Report, opioids like heroin are “the most harmful drug type and accounted for 70% of the negative health impact associated with drug use disorders worldwide”.