Brazilian researchers are advancing the development of a vaccine that seeks to minimize the effects of cocaine and crack on the body.
The candidate for immunization from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) is competing for the Euro Innovation Award in Health, which recognizes great innovations in the medical area and encourages the development of solutions. The anticocaine vaccine competes in the category Applied Technological Innovation in Health. The winners of the categories will compete for the Grande Destaque award.
“We are at the end of a Latin American award that would provide the resources to complete these clinical stages, if we are finalists”, says the professor of the Department of Mental Health of the Faculty of Medicine and responsible researcher, Frederico Garcia.
To vote, it is necessary to be a doctor registered in one of two countries with the participation of the pharmaceutical company that finances the award. We can vote for medical professionals with active registration in the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Equador, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras or the Dominican Republic.
Stage two pre-clinical trials, conducted with animals, have shown promising results in reducing the impact of the drug in wanderers, as shown by CNN in 2021.
Since then, the project concluded the pre-clinical stages, in which safety and efficacy have been verified for the treatment of dependency and the prevention of obstetric and fetal consequences of drug exposure during pregnancy in animals.
The next steps include the realization of two clinical studies, with human volunteers. The request must be sent to the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa). According to Professor Frederico Garcia, the pandemic impacted the progress of the project and that progress in the next phases depends on resources.
Currently, there are no treatments registered in regulatory agencies for these dependencies. The available alternatives are behavioral or use medications that help to tolerate withdrawal or reduce impulsivity.
“This is a prevalent problem, vulnerable and without specific treatment. Our pre-clinical studies confirmed the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in this application. She provides a solution that allows dependent patients to reinsert themselves socially and return to fulfilling their dreams”, explains Garcia.
Crack and cocaine are consumed by more than 18 million people in the world, according to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crimes. Of this total, 25% can become dependent.
A vaccine candidate developed at UFMG induced the immune system to produce antibodies that bind to cocaine in the bloodstream. This connection transforms the drug into a large molecule, which does not pass through the blood-brain barrier, a structure that regulates the transport of substances between the blood and the central nervous system.
“We demonstrate the reduction of two effects, which suggests efficacy in the treatment of dependency. We think of using the drug to prevent relapses in patients who are on treatment, giving them more time to rebuild their lives without drugs”, the researcher explained.
Another possibility of use was observed in tests in pregnant rats, which produced significant levels of antibodies. “The vaccine prevented the action of the drug on the placenta and the fetus. We observed fewer obstetric complications, a greater number of babies and a greater weight than those not vaccinated”, says Frederico.
According to the specialist, a vaccine for the primary prevention of mental disorders – as in the case of the protection of fetuses generated by pregnant cocaine addicts who are vaccinated – would be something unprecedented in the field of psychiatry. The patent has already been deposited by the Coordination of Technology Transfer and Innovation (CTIT) of UFMG.
The purpose is to face dependence on cocaine and its derivatives, such as the case of crack, which is a mixture of the substance with sodium bicarbonate or ammonium. The project has concluded the pre-clinical tests and is seeking funding to advance to the human stage.
“At the time, this project was fully developed with government resources. To restore freedom to dependent people and prevent fetal consequences, we need to start studying as humans”, completes the professor.
Source: CNN Espanol