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20/05/2014

Monkeys used in cruel cocaine study

Scientists in the USA are using monkeys in cruel experiments to test whether it is possible to have an anti-cocaine vaccine, which they believe could be the solution to treating cocaine addiction in humans.

The vaccine, called dAd4GNE, was designed to prevent the ‘high’ associated with taking cocaine by stopping the drug from reaching the brain. It does this by encouraging the body’s immune system to attack cocaine as soon as it enters the bloodstream, allowing vaccinated drug-users to “fall off the wagon” with no effect.

Mice have already been used in cruel tests to assess the efficacy of the vaccine and testing has now moved into rhesus monkeys. In a recent experiment, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in the US injected female monkeys with the vaccine at least three times in a 5-week period. The monkeys were then subjected to repeated cocaine injections followed by brain scans and blood sampling over a period of 12 months to check that the vaccine was working. As well as being considerably distressing for the monkeys involved, the scientific value of the experiment is highly questionable due to significant differences in physiology (i.e. metabolism), experience (monkeys don’t take drugs!) and route of administration (cocaine is usually snorted by users and not injected).

Cocaine addiction is completely preventable and treatable through therapy and rehabilitation. A ‘quick fix’ in the form of a vaccine could lead to further complications and unwanted side effects. It is difficult to see the logic in trying to stop a drug addiction with another drug!

Sources:

1.       Cocaine vaccine passes key testing hurdle. (2013). Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130510150141.htm

2.       Adenovirus capsid-based anti-cocaine vaccine prevents cocaine from binding to the nonhuman primate CNS dopamine transporter. (2013). Neuropsychopharmacology, 38: 2170-2178. Original article can be found here: http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v38/n11/full/npp2013114a.html

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