Nicotine addiction has been referred to as the most powerful chemical dependence in the human experience. Even after months or years of being nicotine free, many former smokers continue to feel the powerful urge for a cigarette. Thanks to new advances in genetic engineering, smoking addiction may be a thing of the past.
How Nicotine Affects the Brain
When a virus, bacteria, or foreign body enters your bloodstream it attaches itself to cells, and begins to replicate and spread. Your immune system responds with antibodies that attack the invaders and stops them from entering your body cells.
Nicotine, however, is made of tiny molecules that go undetected by your immune system. Without a response from antibodies, nicotine is free to travel through the circulatory system and pass into the blood brain barrier. It attaches to your brain receptors and stimulates a pleasurable feeling similar to opiates. When the reward center is denied the feel-good nicotine effects, withdrawal symptoms engage powerful cravings that urge you to smoke a cigarette.
Stop the Reward Response
The solution is to addiction is to stop nicotine from attaching to your brain receptors. If this process is successful, even while smoking, you won’t feel the gratifying effects of nicotine. If your brain’s reward center is not stimulated by the nicotine, there is no reason for your body to crave it.
The vaccine is made from the genetic code of a common cold virus (rendered harmless) and a nicotine antibody. Once introduced into the body, the antibodies are recreated over and over by liver cells. When you smoke a cigarette, the engineered antibodies attack the nicotine and stop it from binding with your brain cells. The smoker no longer experiences the satisfying effects of cigarette smoking.
In the Testing Phase
The vaccine is still in the early phases, and has been successfully tested on mice. Researchers suggested the mice treated with the vaccine failed to respond the effects of nicotine, and antibodies were found circulating in their blood. The next step is to test on primates, and ultimately human trials will be conducted in the future.
If successful, the vaccine will help many struggling smokers to pack it up. The powerful addiction to cigarettes is a life-long fight for many ex-smokers that are dedicated to staying nicotine free. Despite the best intentions, will power doesn’t always prevail over the intense urges and cravings of a demanding brain. This new technology can offer a potent solution to the smoker who is committed to quitting.