New Nicotine Vaccine May Help Smokers Quit

Are you one of the 1 in 5 Americans who's addicted to cigarettes and can't seem to quit despite the fact that smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths? If so, learn more about a new type of nicotine vaccine that's now in the testing stage.

Creating a Gene Therapy Vaccine

This vaccine is being developed by scientists at New York City's Weill Cornell Medical College and incorporates cutting edge gene therapy techniques that have been effective in preventing other health conditions.

For smoking cessation, the vaccine works by introducing a harmless virus into the body that prompts it to create its own antibodies against nicotine. These antibodies are then put to work "eating up" the nicotine in the bloodstream. This action sweeps up most of the nicotine and prevents it from entering into the brain, thus heading off that relaxing effect that nicotine typically exerts on the body, heart, and blood pressure. The researchers believe that this is significant, since this pleasing reaction seems to be at the heart of what most smokers crave.

Testing This Nicotine Vaccine

To date, testing of this vaccine has been done exclusively on mice and one dose seems to be enough to prompt their bodies to continue to create these antibodies against nicotine for the rest of their lives. These findings were reported in Science Translational Medicine in June 2012.

While this nicotine vaccine isn't the first of its kind to go through the research stage, previous versions haven't proven effective in the end. The researchers believe that this new vaccine is different, though, because it doesn't expose the body to nicotine directly in an attempt to build up immunity like earlier efforts, but rather prompts the body to create its own antibodies. The new gene therapy vaccine also seems to have a much longer reach, since earlier vaccines have needed to be repeated periodically. While other nicotine vaccines had varying degrees of success on different participants, this vaccine seems to have a more consistent universal effect.

What This Means for You

Before you get too excited about using gene therapy to quit smoking yourself, know that its availability to the public is still quite far away. In the meantime, explore some other smoking cessation treatments that exist today. Many smokers find that a combination of smoking cessation efforts is most effective. Your doctor can help you develop a strategic multi-pronged approach that may include some or all of the following: nicotine replacement products, other smoking cessation medications, individual or group therapy, web-based programs, and having a good support system in place.




Catharine Paddock PhD. "New Smoking Vaccine Using Gene Therapy Being Developed." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 29 Jun. 2012. Web.
25 Jul. 2012. "Smoking and Tobacco Use." 6 Sept. 2011. Web. 23 July 2012.

Hicks, Martin et al. "AAV-Directed Persistent Expression of a Gene Encoding Anti-Nicotine Antibody for Smoking Cessation." Sci Transl Med 4: 140 (27 June 2012): 140ra87. Web. 26 July 2012.