An End In Sight for Cocaine Addiction

A pioneering new method of combating cocaine addiction has been revealed.

Natural enzymes in the body that destroys cocaine, rendering it powerless, are simply ‘topped up’ by gene supplements. When combined (it is theorised) with a form of the vaccine to inhibit cocaines’ effect in the brain, recovering addicts will no longer get any ‘kick’ out of their drug and therefore find it much easier to quit.

The gene of the hour, butyrylcholinesterase  (BChE), appears naturally in our immune systems and is present in our blood plasma. It is a factor in metabolising foreign materials in our bloodstream. The facts speak for themselves. A study performed by Steve Brimijoin of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota showed that when the gene was administered to rats that were showing signs of cocaine dependency, none of the subjects indulged in drug-seeking activity for up to a year afterwards. Relapse statistics show that a single slip within a year of giving up cocaine can prevent 90% of addicts remain clean.

The potential for human trials has just been given the go-ahead, and the first set of results are expected in November. The genes are administered into the cells by combining them with a virus related to the common cold. They are absorbed by the cells of the liver where they act as a ‘force multiplier’, increasing the desired enzyme to high but still harmless levels. The butyrylcholinesterase genes, however, even if given in large numbers, would not be fast-acting enough to prevent an addict from truly slipping off the wagon into a full-blown relapse. This is why the Mayo Clinic research is aiming to combine with vaccine research, linking the long-term preventative with a short-term block to prevent the immediate High. If everything goes to plan for Brimijoin and his research, human testing should begin within the next couple of years.

Since the above article was written in 2008, further research has been carried out in The University of Chicago. A mutant human BChH has been genetically engineered. From studies on animals it was expected that the enzyme could become a therapy by injection, but this proved to be too challenging. It was then assessed that they could use a technique of editing the skin stem cells of animals and incorporating the hBChe gene. The tests appear to indicate that the skin graft of the cells efficiently blocks the cocaine-induced reward effect. In a similar test, skin-derived hBChE efficiently and specifically disrupted recurrence of cocaine-seeking after 25 days of withdrawal. This suggests that the concept of skin gene therapy may be effective for treating cocaine abuse and overdose in the future.

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