A Vaccine for Heroin Addiction?

Wow – this could be  major game changer.

And you thought there were only Zombies in the movies..

Mexican scientists successfully test vaccine that could cut heroin addiction

A group of Mexican scientists is working on a vaccine that could reduce addiction to one of the world’s most notorious narcotics: heroin.

Researchers at the country’s National Institute of Psychiatry say they have successfully tested the vaccine on mice and are preparing to test it on humans.

The vaccine, which has been patented in the US, makes the body resistant to the effects of heroin, so users would no longer get a rush of pleasure when they smoked or injected it.

“It would be a vaccine for people who are serious addicts, who have not had success with other treatments and decide to use this application to get away from drugs,” the institute’s director Maria Elena Medina said on Thursday.

Scientists worldwide have been searching for drug addiction vaccines for several years, but none have yet been fully developed. A group at the US National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported significant progress in a vaccine for cocaine.

However, the Mexican scientists appear to be close to making a breakthrough on a heroin vaccine and have received funds from the US institute as well as the Mexican government.

During the tests, mice were given access to deposits of heroin over an extended period of time. Those given the vaccine showed a huge drop in heroin consumption, giving the institute hope that it could also work on people, Medina said.

Kim Janda, a scientist working on his own narcotics vaccines at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said that the Mexican vaccine could function but with some shortcomings.

“It could be reasonably effective, but maybe too general and affect too many different types of opioids as well as heroin,” Janda said.

Mexico has a growing drug addiction problem. Health secretary Jose Cordoba recently said the country now has about 450,000 hard drug addicts, particularly along the trafficking corridors of the US-Mexico border.

Mexican gangsters grow opium poppies in the Sierra Madre mountains and convert them into heroin known as Black Tar and Mexican Mud, which are smuggled over the Rio Grande.

Breakthrough on a Cure for AIDs

Still years from being available from doctors – but really promising research!

[VACCINE]

Advance in Quest for HIV Vaccine

HIV research is undergoing a renaissance that could lead to new ways to vaccinate against the AIDS virus and other viral diseases.

In the latest development, U.S. government scientists say they have discovered three powerful antibodies, the strongest of which neutralizes 91% of HIV strains, more than any AIDS antibody yet discovered. They are now deploying the technique used to find those antibodies to identify antibodies to influenza viruses.

The HIV antibodies were discovered in the cells of a 60-year-old African-American gay man, known in the scientific literature as Donor 45, whose body made the antibodies naturally. The trick for scientists now is to develop a vaccine or other methods to make anyone’s body produce them as well.

That effort “will require work,” said Gary Nabel, director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was a leader of the research. “We’re going to be at this for a while” before any benefit is seen in the clinic, he said.

The research was published Thursday in two papers in the online edition of the journal Science, 10 days before the opening of a large International AIDS Conference in Vienna, where prevention science is expected to take center stage. More than 33 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2008, and about 2.7 million contracted the virus that year, according to United Nations estimates.

Vaccines, which are believed to work by activating the body’s ability to produce antibodies, eliminated or curtailed smallpox, polio and other feared viral diseases, so they have been the holy grail of AIDS research.

Last year, following a trial in Thailand, results of the first HIV vaccine to show any efficacy were announced. But that vaccine reduced the chances of infection only by about 30%, and controversy erupted because in one common analysis the results weren’t statistically significant. That vaccine wasn’t designed to elicit the new antibodies.

The new discovery is part of what Wayne Koff, head of research and development at the nonprofit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, calls a “renaissance” in HIV vaccine research.

Antibodies that are utterly ineffective, or that disable just one or two strains, are common. Until last year, only a handful of “broadly neutralizing antibodies,” those that efficiently disable a large swath of HIV strains, had been discovered. And none of them neutralized more than about 40% of known HIV variants.

But in the past year, thanks to efficient new detection methods, at least a half dozen broadly neutralizing antibodies, including the three latest ones, have been identified in peer-reviewed journals. Dennis Burton of the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, Calif., led a team that discovered two broadly neutralizing antibodies last year; he says his team has identified additional, unpublished ones. Most of the new antibodies are more potent, able to knock out HIV at far lower concentrations than their previously known counterparts. Continue reading

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