The health benefits of quitting smoking are undeniably huge, but actually doing so can be extremely difficult. A new research project is hoping to make things a little easier, with scientists developing a vaccine to help people in the effort. It's looking fairly promising, with the treatment proving effective in tests on laboratory mice.

We've been trying to come up with tools to help smokers kick the habit for years, but so far, nothing has really hit the mark. Nicotine gum and patches can be effective, but don't work well all the time, and drugs have been developed that target nicotine receptors, but they've been found to cause severe side effects, including depression and mood swings.

Recently, scientists have been trying to come up with a vaccine that actually targets the nicotine molecule itself, but two recent clinical trials have failed to produce significant positive results. They did however give researchers a hint that they were on the right track, showing that the people most likely to stop smoking for a period of six months or more, were those who produced the most anti-nicotine antibodies.

In light of the results, scientists from the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego worked to create a new vaccine design, with increased numbers of antibodies that specifically target nicotine molecules. The vaccine was tested on laboratory mice, where it began to delay the effects of nicotine within just ten minutes of injection, while lowering the concentration of nicotine in the brain.

While the results of the new vaccine are positive, animal testing doesn't always accurately predict how the substance will perform in trials with human patients. The researchers are now working to refine the vaccine design, looking towards clinical trials in the future.

The findings of the research were published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Source: ACS