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Breaking Ad: Can virus-delivered gene therapy help meth addicts quit?

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Fictional meth mogul Walter White beat Mexican cartels, the US DEA and biker gangs, but would gene therapy have derailed his business?
Fictional meth mogul Walter White beat Mexican cartels, the US DEA and biker gangs, but would gene therapy have derailed his business?

Related tags Drug addiction

Addicts struggling to kick a meth habit could be helped by gene therapy according to the team behind a US National Institutes of Health funded project.

University of Arkansas scientists injected adenoviruses filled with genes encoding anti-methamphetamine antibodies into rats and mice which, when given a dose of meth 50 days later, had higher concentrations of the drug in their blood than animals given a saline placebo.

The findings –presented at the AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition this week – suggest antibodies could be used to stop meth reaching sites in the brain where it increases the release of dopamine, which is the chemical responsible for the “high” addicts crave.

The results of the US National Institute on Drug abuse funded project​ also suggest genes encoding anti-methamphetamine antibodies can be delivered using viral vectors in a way that provides long-term benefits to addicts according to project leader Eric Peterson.

The goals of this project are to integrate antibody engineering and gene therapy technology to generate a long-acting antibody-based medicine that will both protect patients from relapse to meth use and minimize treatment failures associated with long-term patient compliance​.”

Meth psycology

Government data​ suggest more than 10 million US citizens aged 12 and older have already used methamphetamine, which is considered by academics​ to be among the most addictive illegal narcotics largely due to its impact on the brain.

According to the Arkansas research team adenovirus-based medications that make meth less psychologically rewarding could help addicts who want to stop by reducing the likelihood of relapse.

Anti-meth antibody-based therapies that tightly bind and sequester meth away from its sites of action in the brain are showing promise as a viable treatment option. In addition, they are non-addicting and suitable for use in combination with existing behavioral therapies​.”

The project is funded through to the end of June 2015.

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