Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute announced that they’ve come up with a way to create a more effective nicotine vaccine, which could eventually help people trying to quit smoking from relapsing.
In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, the researchers said they discovered which is the best target of two types of nicotine, which are referred to as left-handed and right-handed.
According to the institute, 99 percent of the nicotine molecules in tobacco are of the left-handed variety. A once-promising nicotine vaccine that went through clinical trials a few years ago didn’t distinguish between the two sides and ended up working in only 30 percent of test subjects.
Smoking is the leading cause of eight forms of cancer, including lung and fast-moving pancreatic types of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Researchers are hoping that a vaccine will create antibodies that will shut off the brain’s reward system for nicotine.
“This is just one area where we are looking outside the box to try to treat addiction,” said Kim Janda, the Ely R. Callaway Jr. professor of chemistry and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at the institute.
He said vaccines that target left- or right-handedness of molecules could help treat cocaine and heroin addiction.
Jonathan Lockner, a research associate for The Scripps Research Institute, told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday that researchers predict smokers will need several injections for the first few months then booster injections every six months.
But former Assistant Surgeon General Thomas Novotny told KPBS that motivation is a factor to quitting the habit.
“If a smoker is motivated to quit, most of the time the smokers can quit on their own,” Novotny said. “But for some smokers, they need a little boost.”
The study was funded by the California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.