Have you decided you are tired of smoking, but nothing you do seems to help you quit? If there was a shot you could get in a doctor’s office that would make smoking less pleasurable, would you take it? A Massachusetts company, Selecta Biosciences, Inc., is beginning its Phase 1 clinical trial of a nicotine vaccine called SEL-068 which may help you stop smoking. Having that cigarette to calm you down or keep you from eating, just won’t have the same effect anymore.
The vaccine works by training your immune system to capture inhaled nicotine molecules in the bloodstream, preventing them from entering your brain and triggering an addictive response. One advantage to a vaccine is you won’t have to remember to take a pill every day. One drawback is the body’s immune response to nicotine may take several days or weeks to fully work.
SEL-068 uses synthetic nanoparticles which have been engineered in a lab, unlike the flu vaccine which is a mixture of weakened flu viruses inoculated into fertilized chicken eggs in which the viruses are incubated. To understand the size of a nanoparticle, a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers across; flu vaccine and Selecta’s particles are about 100 nanomenters wide.
Selecta has begun the first clinical trials of SEL-068 on healthy smokers and nonsmokers, the first time a fully integrated synthetic, nanoparticle vaccine is being tested in human clinical trials. In order for the vaccine to be effective, it must stimulate production of enough antibodies to soak up most of the nicotine. This first trial will allow Selecta to check the antibody levels in the volunteers, as well as the safety of the product. The future trials will determine whether the vaccine will help smokers stop smoking over the course of six months or a year.
The vaccine may help stop the nicotine effects from going to the brain, but the product won’t address the reason why people smoke in the first place.