February 4, 2021 –  “We’ve shown it is possible to prevent these unnecessary deaths by eliciting antibodies that stop the drug from reaching the brain.” The Scripps Research laboratory of chemist Kim Janda, Ph.D., has been working on new therapeutic interventions that may be able to prevent the bulk of deaths from opioid overdose.

Janda and his team have developed experimental vaccines that have shown in rodents to blunt the deadly effects of fentanyl—which has been driving the boom in opioid deaths—as well as its even more fatal cousin, carfentanil, a growing source of overdoses and a chemical terrorist threat.  Once in the brain, synthetic opioids trigger the body to slow down breathing. When too much of the drugs are consumed, which is easy to do, breathing can stop altogether. In a series of experiments involving mice, Janda’s vaccines “sequestered” the potent drug molecules to keep them from interacting with the brain and body, thus thwarting dangerous respiratory symptoms.

Janda envisions the vaccine being used in a number of scenarios, including emergency situations to treat overdoses, as a therapy for those with substance abuse disorder, and as a means to protect military personnel who may be exposed to opioids as chemical weapons.



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