NicVAX Vaccine Removes The 'Feel Good' Factor From Smoking

A clinical trial of a new vaccine to treat nicotine dependence is underway at Michigan State University (MSU) and 24 other sites nationwide. These trials makes use of a novel technique in a costly public health effort to impact the $192 billion spent on smoking related illnesses per year.


Smoking Cessation: What's in a cigarette?: image via Edinboro UniversitySmoking Cessation: What's in a cigarette?: image via Edinboro University



NiVAX, the new vaccine, was developed and manufactured by Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, which is testing the vaccine on about 1,000 persons nationwide.  Jonathan Henry, a professor at MSU's Department of Psychiatry and Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, is leading the clinical trial at MSU where 50 people will participate in the trial.

Nicotine is a substance that can cross the blood-brain barrier, which normally protects the brain and spinal cord from harmful substances.  Once nicotine crosses that barrier, it triggers the release of stimulants, such as dopamine, that give a positive feeling to the smoker, which is what leads to addiction.

The NiVAX vaccine is designed to work by encouraging the immune system to produce antibodies that will bind to nicotine and prevent it from crossing the blood-brain barrier, thereby denying smokers the 'highs' they once had. 

Participants in the study will receive several doses of the vaccine during a 12 month period.  Because NiVAX stays in the bloodstream for several months, it is expected that NiVAX will be more effective than other smoking cessation programs, which have a high rate of relapse during the first year. 


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