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A vaccine to help ex-smokers

5:27pm, August 10, 2004

From New Orleans, at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience

By generating antibodies that neutralize nicotine, a vaccine could keep ex-smokers from getting the nicotine high that drives many of them back to their bad habit, according to a group of neuroscientists.

"Our focus is to prevent a relapse," says Sabina de Villiers of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Since nicotine is too small a molecule to stimulate antibody production on its own, the Swedish group attaches nicotine to larger molecules known to trigger a vigorous immune reaction.

In rodents, such test vaccines generate antibodies with differing specificities for  nicotine, says de Villiers. With varying efficiencies, these antibodies bind to a nicotine molecule and prevent it from reaching the brain, she explains.

In one test, nicotine administered to vaccinated male rats didn't produce the typical release of dopamine, the brain chemical thought to underlie ma

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