Nav: Home

Trials in humans near for antibody to block cocaine's impact on the brain

February 27, 2017

CINCINNATI--A University of Cincinnati (UC) researcher who has developed an immunotherapy to help reverse cocaine addiction that's been successful in animal models says he hopes to have it in clinical trials in human volunteers within a year.

Andrew Norman, PhD, professor in the UC College of Medicine's Department of Pharmacology and Cell Biophysics, has led a team of researchers in the development of a human monoclonal antibody--derived from a single cell--for use against a specific target, in this case cocaine. If the antibody is injected into the bloodstream, it attaches to cocaine, preventing it from entering the brain and limiting its behavioral effects. This humanized monoclonal antibody has previously been shown by Norman and his colleagues to reduce cocaine's effects in an animal model of relapse.

"Initially, everything was pre-clinical. We developed this antibody, and we were able to produce enough to test in animals," says Norman. "In all our in vivo and in vitro testing, the antibody was very effective, and it worked beautifully. Based on those very successful pre-clinical studies, we got the go ahead to move forward toward clinical studies. This is translational research, moving from molecule to mouse to man."

Norman's research is funded by a $6.28 million three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. Toxicology studies and a second round of tests in animal models using the antibody are needed before an investigational drug application can proceed to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for human clinical trials, says Norman.

If proven safe, the antibody would be most beneficial in assisting individuals who are highly motivated to overcome addiction, says Norman.

"This will not cure addiction because addiction is presumably a brain affliction," says Norman. "This antibody is designed to not let cocaine get to the brain. It can only prevent the cocaine from being able to act to produce its usual effects on the brain. This will aid a person by decreasing the probability that a relapse event will occur. If it does, it will help prevent that event from being maintained."

For an individual who has an intermittent relapse, the antibody will block the cocaine from getting to the brain and producing the high that addicts may crave, says Norman. The antibody can be given in doses that would remain effective for at least 30 days, a period long enough for a person in recovery to continue making progress in battling addiction, he says.

Norman says the antibody does not cure addiction and it is not a panacea, but rather a means to assist individuals who still face the very difficult task of beating addiction. Addiction is a treatable disease, though; for some, managing it like other chronic diseases may be an option, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It would still be possible for someone to override the human monoclonal antibody, but it would require a person in the throes of addiction to take an exceedingly large amount of cocaine to overwhelm the binding capacity of the antibody, explains Norman.

"It will help keep people that are motivated to stay off cocaine from doing so by making sure any relapse event does not lead to a sustained relapsed event," says Norman. "If people are not highly motivated to quit cocaine, there is no reason that this will be helpful."

"If this antibody works the way we believe it will in the body, then it gives clues as to how we should interpret drug effects in other addictive behaviors," he adds. "There are projects in other laboratories around the country to develop vaccines against addictive drugs such as opioids."

Norman says the antibody is so specific to cocaine that it won't bind to other drugs in the body.

"It won't interfere with other drug therapies that come along later on," he says. "So if somebody does develop a drug that does interact in the brain on the mechanisms and brain areas where cocaine exerts its effect relevant to its addictive properties, this antibody will be an adjunct to that and it won't interfere."
This research is supported by a grant from the NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse 1U01DA039550-01.

Norman is named as a co-inventor on a patent application for the use of the humanized anti-cocaine monoclonal antibody.

University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center

Related Cocaine Articles:

Of all professions, construction workers most likely to use opioids and cocaine
Construction workers are more likely to use drugs than workers in other professions, finds a study by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health.
Chronic cocaine use modifies gene expression
Chronic cocaine use changes gene expression in the hippocampus, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.
Blocking dopamine weakens effects of cocaine
Blocking dopamine receptors in different regions of the amygdala reduces drug seeking and taking behavior with varying longevity, according to research in rats published in eNeuro.
Born to run: just not on cocaine
A study finds a surprising response to cocaine in a novel strain of mutant mice -- they failed to show hyperactivity seen in normal mice when given cocaine and didn't run around.
Cocaine adulterant may cause brain damage
People who regularly take cocaine cut with the animal anti-worming agent levamisole demonstrate impaired cognitive performance and a thinned prefrontal cortex.
Setting affects pleasure of heroin and cocaine
Drug users show substance-specific differences in the rewarding effects of heroin versus cocaine depending on where they use the drugs, according to a study published in JNeurosci.
One in 10 people have traces of cocaine or heroin on their fingerprints
Scientists have found that drugs are now so prevalent that 13 percent of those taking part in a test were found to have traces of class A drugs on their fingerprints -- despite never using them.
Alcohol makes rats more vulnerable to compulsive cocaine use
Rats given alcohol for 10 days prior to cocaine exhibited enhanced cocaine-addiction behavior, including continuing to seek cocaine despite receiving a brief electric shock when they did so, a new study reports.
Cocaine use during adolescence is even more harmful than during adulthood
Brazilian scientists found that addicts who began using cocaine before and after the age of 18 showed differences in sustained attention and working memory, among other brain functions.
Cocaine addiction leads to build-up of iron in brain
Cocaine addiction may affect how the body processes iron, leading to a build-up of the mineral in the brain, according to new research from the University of Cambridge.
More Cocaine News and Cocaine Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at