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Nicotine Vaccines And Nanomedicine

Updated on October 4, 2012

Clouds Of Smoke

photo courtesy kevinrwalsh @ Flickr
photo courtesy kevinrwalsh @ Flickr

Stop Smoking Vaccine

Non-toxic nanoparticles can be of great assistance to immunologists looking for alternative vaccine delivery mechanisms in order to rid the vaccination process of the need for needles. Pulmonary vaccine delivery already looks like one such candidate due to the series of benefits that the needless process can have, and now researchers are proposing new methods to take things one step further. Supposedly non-toxic nanoparticles are being looked at for use in initiatives such as the anti nicotine vaccine which will help smokers rid themselves of the vice and improve society health rates in a proactive manner. It is an interesting use for vaccines which generally find themselves in the position to prevent diseases rather than curbing a person's vices. These addiction nanoparticles could eventually find themselves on a pharmacy shelf beside the anti drinking pills and other addiction assistants. An anti nicotine vaccine that renders this veritable disease of the mind before one has to chance to smoke long enough to really increase cancer risks and other health side effects is probably a welcome thing in a world where many nations coexist with the fact that smoking and nicotine is one of the top causes of death among citizens.

Nanoparticles already exist within cigarette smoke itself and there is constantly research being done to decipher the numbers within the smoke which is an ever evolving toxic mixture of chemicals that most people would never willingly let enter their body if not for the short term benefit of satisfying the addiction. Now what if the smoker could take a vaccine of tested non-toxic nanoparticles that would aid with smoking cessation. That is precisely what Selecta Biosciences and a few other vaccine startups are looking to do with their new products. Building upon the principle that it is extremely hard to quit smoking despite the user knowing that it is a nasty an harmful habit to have, the company is trialing a vaccine method that implements engineered nanoparticles to create an immune response in the smoker that results in antibodies being attached to the nicotine molecules in the person's bloodstream. From there the nicotine has a tough time crossing the blood brain barrier due to the increased size of the nicotine molecule + non-toxic nanoparticle combo. Synthetic vaccines look to be a hot emerging field of nanotechnology as companies can now custom design their own models of vaccination without the need to rely on weakened strains of a virus or other organic material. It is a simple progressive step to assume that anti nicotine vaccines could soon lead to similar products for illegal drugs as well. One could imagine that the same thing could be done with the THC molecule of marijuana and likewise other illicit substances.

However, the anti nicotine vaccine using nanoparticles that have not had time to be fully understood as far as their toxic effects could have an array of unwanted characteristics. Many governments have already been looking at implementing large scale anti-nicotine vaccine initiatives to eliminate smoking or try to prevent smoking in children and teens before they have the chance to develop the habit. If the NPs prove to be toxic nanoparticles in the long term, such efforts might have undesired health consequences for the young participants. At the moment it looks like anti nicotine vaccines such as NicVax by Nabi Pharmaceuticals is proving to be too expensive to implement according to the strictly cost-benefit economic analysis that some countries have pursued. If improved nanoparticle synthesis reduces the cost then there is no telling what may happen. Secondly, the early implementation of these vaccines is problematic because in some cases a smoker can simply consume multiple cigarettes in a row to overwhelm the antibodies and allow the nicotine to reach the brain anyway. This could actually lead to increased smoking and the smoking of stronger brands of cigarettes rather than quitting smoking. As with all of the new nanotechnology, the vaccines should be fully tested and researched so that one does not unintentionally deliver toxic nanoparticles to the "patients," and as for the moral use of such a nanotechnology, it should be a opt-in program rather than a mandatory mass vaccination as some have suggested.


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    • thephoenixlives profile image

      thephoenixlives 4 years ago

      I don't like the idea of this nicotine vaccine because it is made from an "Engineered virus" This means man made or genetically modified. It is also said to work with liver cells, and organ that is critical to life. It also states that it changes the liver cells genetic makeup, changing the function of the DNA and cellular structure. This is dangerous, untested long term and we all know that recent testing on rat's with genetically modified foods alone cause cancers and tumors, ending their lives by 1/3rd.

      What if you take a 25 year old smoker, and give him/her the vaccine and they develop cancer by 40 years old when they may not have gotten cancer until in their 50's as a smoker.

      What if the liver is killed in 5 years and causes mass scale premature deaths? We know from recent scandals like GSK being found guilty of felonies for bribing FDA officials and getting easy approvals of drugs that kill, what makes you think the anti smoking crowds zealous attitudes and the current FDA, CDC and other health officials would not shortcut the approval process? it is now common for most drugs and vaccines to be approved in under 18 months.

      If and when you research how our health care system works, you would really be afraid of anything they offer.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Great piece. No doubt about it. Voted up and all across. Being a non-smoker for now going on 22 years, plus a non-dipper or chewer, and non-alcohol consumer, I can say honestly that this hub would be very helpful to someone wanting off the nicotine, but cant turn loose. Well done.

    • profile image

      kt 4 years ago

      There's a lot of misinformation out there about what makes cigarette smoking so dangerous. It is not the nicotine itself, is is the carcinogens in the smoke, tar, and filler crap they put in cigarettes. Nicotine is an addictive substance found in cigarettes that causes cravings for them, but nicotine itself actually has some surprising medicinal uses. I have a mild auto-immune condition and I chew nicotine gum for the anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects. Low-dose nicotine is therapeutic for some conditions, and in a healthy person is not nearly as bad for you as alcohol. It's no different than any other prescription meds you might get from your doctor. (And to clarify, I chew the nicotine gum per a doctor's recommendation. )

      Yes, a drop of pure nicotine is poisonous, but that is not the amount present in a cigarette or piece of nicotine gum, not even close. "Poison" is a dose dependent notion.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

      Hi tillsonitan. You wrote:

      "ANYTHING that saves even one life from the poisons of nicotine is worth it!"

      Both Type 1 errors (failure to take action) and Type 2 errors (taking action on the basis of inadequate information) can do great harm, and can even kill people.

      Shortly after receiving a childhood polio immunization from a bad batch of vaccine, I caught meningitis. I was in great pain for several weeks, and almost bought the farm, except that we didn't have a farm.

      Cause and effect? I don't know. There's more than one infectious agent that can cause meningitis.

      I hope that againsttheodds doesn't mind my saying this, but I did write a hub about quitting smoking. In that, as in most of my hubs, I included some nonstandard thinking. And no, I've never been addicted to cigarettes. But I do have a scientific background.

      Best wishes, Larry

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      ANYTHING that saves even one life from the poisons of nicotine is worth it! I say this as a smoker who can't seem to quit. You've offered a lot of information and made some very good points...I just hope the research continues.

      Voted up and useful.

    • againsttheodds profile image
      Author

      againsttheodds 4 years ago

      Thanks Larry. This is definitely something that more people should be aware of. I'm sure that you are right that almost no smoker will go as far as taking this vaccine willingly. But there is more than one company looking to make a profit from this "innovation" and they will likely push hard for government funding and programs to gain off society's disdain for cigarette smokers. The complexity of nanoparticles will make it even harder to actually know what one is getting, and it is not hard to imagine other things being introduced under such "vaccine" guises. The ease of pulmonary delivery makes dispensing such concoctions to unsuspecting people even easier and opens up dangerous realms. It can definitely happen anywhere. Rick Perry was quite the joke in the election movie that played out this year. The scary part is that he is actually in a powerful enough position to push forward with such ideas.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

      Hi againsttheodds. Great hub! I hope that it generates a lot of discussion. You wrote:

      "Building upon the principle that it is extremely hard to quit smoking despite the user knowing that it is a nasty an harmful habit to have, the company is trialing a vaccine method that implements engineered nanoparticles to create an immune response in the smoker that results in antibodies being attached to the nicotine molecules in the person's bloodstream. From there the nicotine has a tough time crossing the blood brain barrier due to the increased size of the nicotine molecule + non-toxic nanoparticle combo."

      In the short run, the proposed vaccine would do absolutely nothing for the Cigarette Jones. After one is under the influence of the vaccine, scratching that itch with the usual dose of cigarettes simply would not work. As you point out,

      "Secondly, the early implementation of these vaccines is problematic because in some cases a smoker can simply consume multiple cigarettes in a row to overwhelm the antibodies and allow the nicotine to reach the brain anyway."

      The proposed vaccine is high-tech thinly veiled variation on the Cold Turkey theme, but with a twist. Most fully informed cigarette addicts in their right minds would not opt for the vaccine. The vaccine would only make sense in the context of a Big Brother program of forced medication of children in elementary schools.

      It couldn't happen here, you say? Governor Perry of Texas wanted to forcibly immunize children against HPV. We're not talking polio immunizations here.