LA JOLLA, Calif., April 18, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have shown that an injectable solution can protect mice from an otherwise lethal overdose of cocaine. The findings could lead to human clinical trials of a treatment designed to reverse the effects of cocaine in case of emergency. Cocaine is involved in more than 400,000 emergency-room visits and about 5,000 overdose deaths each year in the United States.
The findings, reported recently in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, demonstrate the therapeutic potential of a human antibody against cocaine.
"This would be the first specific antidote for cocaine toxicity," said Scripps Research Kim Janda, PhD, senior author of the report. A pioneer in the field of vaccines against drugs of abuse, Janda is the Ely R. Callaway, Jr. Chair in Chemistry, a professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbial Science, and director of The Worm Institute for Research and Medicine, all at Scripps Research. "It's a human antibody so it should be relatively safe, it has a superior affinity for cocaine, and we examined it in a cocaine overdose model that mirrors a real-life scenario," he said.
Janda and his laboratory colleagues have been developing candidate vaccines against cocaine, heroin, nicotine, and even Rohypnol, the "date-rape" drug. But most of these have been active vaccines—solutions of drug-mimicking molecules that provoke a long-term antibody response against a drug, greatly reducing its ability to reach the brain. These are potentially useful against addiction and relapse, but take weeks to stimulate an effective antibody response and thus are of limited value in drug overdose emergencies, which require a fast-acting antidote. Cocaine is a leading cause of illegal-drug overdoses in developed countries; it can cause hyperthermia, irregular heartbeats, seizures and death.