Drugs rely on maintaining a precise form in order to interact with brain cells. If their shape is distorted, like a bent key, the chemical will no longer be able to unlock the nervous system. Creating molecules that attach themselves to the drug, thus changing its shape and rendering it useless offer a chance to vaccinate against addiction. But heroin, produced from poppies such as these, is a moving target – immediately morphing into two separate forms as it hits the bloodstream. Any vaccine, therefore, must be able to bind to all three versions of the drug to successfully block the effects. New research has achieved exactly this – producing a vaccine that significantly reduces addictive behaviour in rats. Scientists expect a human-specific vaccine to be ready for testing within six months, which could be up to ten times more effective than this current version.
Written by Jan Piotrowski
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.