Gene therapy, which modifies a person’s DNA, has long been thought of as a way to treat genetic diseases—and, more recently, cancer. But a team at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences thinks it can use this same idea to treat addiction by counteracting the high that methamphetamine produces.
Eric Peterson, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology, and his colleagues have packaged a gene that codes for an anti-meth antibody into an engineered virus. When injected, the therapy makes the body generate antibodies against meth. The antibodies bind to and trap methamphetamine molecules that are circulating in the bloodstream, preventing them from traveling to the brain and triggering pleasurable feelings. In mice, researchers showed that the therapy lasted for over eight months, reducing the amount of meth in the brain and the stimulant effects caused by the drug.
The hope, [researcher Eric] Peterson says, is that a drug based on the approach could be used with behavior therapies to treat people addicted to meth.
There’s also the potential that people who have received the gene therapy could take more meth to try to feel the high they used to get. That is something researchers running a future clinical trial would have to keep in mind.
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