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Early-Stage Meth Vaccine Shows Promise

Rat trials indicate that an experimental vaccine can block the high of methamphetamine.

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By Valerie Tejeda

11/02/12

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Scientists are cautiously optimistic about the progress of a new vaccine for methamphetamine addiction. Meth is both devastating and commonly used—with over 400,000 current users in the US and around 25 million worldwide. Scripps Research Institute researchers have been testing an experimental vaccine on rats and seeing promising results. The idea is to block meth intoxication, preventing such effects as a rise in body temperature and hyperactivity. “This is an early-stage study, but its results are comparable to those for other drug vaccines that have then gone to clinical trials," says senior research author Michael A. Taffe, associate professor at the institute's addiction science group. The study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, began two years ago, when scientists developed a total of six potential vaccines. Each contained a chemical cognate of the meth molecule to help build an antibody to the drug. Early research showed three of the six evoked a strong initial antibody response. From there, Taffe’s research team found one—designated "MH6"—that not only created an antibody response, but also stayed in the bloodstream longer. There's a long way still to go: “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,” says research associate Michelle L. Miller. Taffe adds, “Extending the duration of protection is the next big scientific challenge in this field.”

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