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Developing a Vaccine Against Multiple Psychoactive Targets: A Case Study of Heroin

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Heroin addiction is a wide-reaching problem with a spectrum of damaging social consequences. Currently approved heroin addiction medications include drugs that bind at the same receptors (e.g. opioid receptors) occupied by heroin and/or its metabolites in the brain, but undesired side effects of these treatments, maintenance dependence and relapse to drug taking remains problematic. A vaccine capable of blocking heroin's effects could provide an economical, long-lasting and sustainable adjunct to heroin addiction therapy without the side effects associated with available treatment options. Heroin, however, presents a particularly challenging vaccine target as it is metabolized to multiple psychoactive molecules of differing lipophilicity, with differing abilities to cross the blood brain barrier. In this review, we discuss the opiate scaffolding and hapten design considerations to confer immunogenicity as well as the specificity of the immune response towards structurally similar opiates. In addition, we detail different strategies employed in the design of immunoconjugates for a vaccine-based therapy for heroin addiction treatment.

Keywords: 6-acety-morphine; AChE; Blood Brain Barrier; ELISA; HIV; Heroin; Keyhole Limpet Hemocyanin; Rehabilitation Therapy; addiction; drug dependence; immunoconjugate; morphine; therapy; treatment

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-12-01

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  • CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets aims to cover all the latest and outstanding developments on the medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology, genomics and biochemistry of contemporary molecular targets involved in neurological and central nervous system (CNS) disorders e.g. disease specific proteins, receptors, enzymes, genes. Each issue of the journal will contain a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of current topics on drug targets involved in neurological and CNS disorders. As the discovery, identification, characterization and validation of novel human drug targets for neurological and CNS drug discovery continues to grow; this journal will be essential reading for all pharmaceutical scientists involved in drug discovery and development.
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