Part of the show The Safety of Genetically Modified Plants
A new vaccine to treat cocaine addiction is about to be put to the test in America by its UK designers Xenova Pharmaceuticals. Called TA-CD the vaccine works by encouraging an addict’s immune system to produce antibodies to cocaine, in much the same way as it would against bacteria or viruses. These antibodies circulate in the bloodstream mopping up any cocaine taken into the body before it can get to the brain to produce the hit that the addict craves. The company also has a related product called TA-NIC which works in an identical way against nicotine and could potentially help smokers to kick the habit. So why don’t people naturally develop antibodies like this, just by giving taking the drug ? The reason is that the nicotine and cocaine molecules are too small to be seen by the immune system. The breakthrough made by Xenova was to link nicotine and cocaine to a much bigger molecule which the immune system can see. As a result the antibodies produced can lock on to nicotine or cocaine on its own in the blood stream, and neutralise it. Both vaccines have passed safety trials. Now it just remains to be seen how effectively they work.