Fentanyl binds to brain receptors and produces a numbing, euphoric, and sedative sensation. Scientists are now developing a Fentanyl vaccine for opioid that kills 200 Americans a day.
The effects of fentanyl may be completely blocked by a new vaccine, potentially protecting thousands of Americans from overdoses every year.
A shot created by scientists at the University of Houston in Texas was successful in preventing the highly potent drug from penetrating rats’ brains.
Fentanyl attaches to opioid receptors in the brain’s pain and emotion control centers. During an overdose, the brain is deprived of oxygen, which causes neurons to die.
The vaccine was able to prevent the opioid from accessing the brain without interfering with other analgesics like morphine, allowing the recipient to continue receiving other medications if necessary.
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The vaccine operates by stimulating immune system T-cells to produce antibodies that bind to fentanyl in the bloodstream.
These immune proteins stop the drug from propagating and harming the body by catching it as it enters. The kidney then processes it, and the body then excretes it.
Researchers informed DailyMail.com that individuals with opioid use disorder or college students who dabble with illegal drugs could benefit from the vaccine.
Fentanyl was created as a painkiller for use in hospitals, but due to its low cost of production and strong potency, it has become a popular cutting agent for drug dealers.
Just a few of the narcotics that are being laced with fentanyl include meth, cocaine, and street Xanax. An overdose can be brought on by just 2 milligrams of fentanyl.
America is presently experiencing a fentanyl epidemic, with 200 people a day passing away from the synthetic opioid. To put that in perspective, the most recent government data indicate that Covid is currently culpable for of almost 290 fatalities every day.
Researchers in Houston hope their vaccination can significantly reduce the nation’s drug overdose woes and save thousands of lives.
They hope to start the vaccine’s phase 1 human trials the coming year.
‘When you get a vaccine, we’re usually vaccinating people against [viruses], but here we are vaccinated a person against a chemical,’ said Dr Colin Haile, lead researcher and professor at the University of Houston.
Dr. Haile observes that the body produces antibodies to drugs like fentanyl on its own, but not in sufficient quantities to completely eliminate them.
Researchers tested their vaccine on 60 rats, 28 of which received doses, and their findings were published last month in the journal Pharmaceuticals (read below).
Prior to being exposed to fentanyl, the rats received three doses of the vaccination, one every three weeks.
Dr. Haile outlined how the vaccine’s mechanism of action involved focusing on a molecule that acts as the opioid’s structural core.
A fentanyl conjugate, a modified version of the drug’s molecule, serves as the shot’s foundation.
After that, it prepares the body to produce antibodies capable of battling the drug’s constituent chemicals.
‘When an individual gets the vaccine, they get antibodies against fentanyl,’ he said.
‘The antibodies will bind to the drug and keep it from getting to the brain. If you prevent fentanyl from entering the brain you prevent it from producing euphoric effects and effects that lead to overdose deaths.’
The vaccine incorporates adjuvants, which are ingredients found in some vaccinations that aid in the creation of a greater immune response.
They target specific components of the body’s immune response, resulting in better and longer-lasting disease protection.
They slow the propagation of foreign invaders in the body by slowing their proliferation in the bloodstream.
DmLT is used as an adjuvant in this vaccine. The chemical increases the amount of mucus the immune system secretes.
After each vaccination, the Houston researchers collected blood samples from the rodents to measure their antibody levels.
Between weeks four and six, antibody levels significantly increased, and from the fourth week to the study’s tenth and final week, there was steady protection.
‘If you prevent fentanyl from entering the brain you prevent it from producing euphoric effects and effects that lead to overdose deaths.’
Fentanyl binds to brain receptors and produces a numbing, euphoric, and sedative sensation.
It gradually reduces receptor sensitivity, eventually resulting in opioids being the only method to achieve certain feelings. This results in addiction.
When someone overdoses, their respiration may cease, depriving the brain and other body organs of oxygen. As a result, the individual will sustain a serious brain injury.
This is sometimes fatal. Even survivors frequently suffer severe brain injury.
Naxolone, marketed as Narcan, is the most effective overdose treatment available to doctors and first responders.
A person’s brain’s opioid receptors are swiftly cleared by the fast-acting nasal spray, negating the effects of the medicine.
However, it can only be applied promptly following an overdose. The overdose can be completely avoided with this vaccine.
To determine whether the fentanyl had been negated in the rats’ bloodstreams and how they would respond to pain, researchers conducted trials on rats.
Fentanyl and other opioids like it act by causing analgesia, which is the absence of pain perception.
For each mouse in each of the two experimental groups, fentanyl dosages of 0.05 mg/kg or a smaller dose of 0.1 mg/kg were administered.
If the vaccination works as intended, rats that received the doses would not have experienced fentanyl’s pain-negating effects.
Two experiments were carried out by the researchers, one of which involved heating the rats’ tails to observe how they would react. The tail-flick test is a technique that determines whether an animal can feel pain if it removes its tail from the heat.
In a second experiment, the rats were placed on a warmed heating plate. When a rodent pulled its legs off the plate, it was assumed that it was in discomfort.
The unvaccinated rats did not experience any pain in either experiment, indicating that fentanyl had numbing effects on the pain receptors in their brains.
Vaccinated rats, however, responded to the pain stimulus as expected, demonstrating that the painkiller had no effect.
Tests on brain samples also showed no signs of drug use.
‘It’s as if they never got fentanyl at all. Complete blockade,’ Dr Haile said.
The vaccine-treated rats displayed pain symptoms when additional tests were conducted using other analgesics like morphine and oxycodone.
‘The anti-fentanyl antibodies were specific to fentanyl and a fentanyl derivative and did not cross-react with other opioids, such as morphine,’ Dr Haile explained.
That implies that a person who has received the vaccine could still receive other narcotics for pain relief.
If the vaccine is found to be effective, Dr. Haile’s team has great expectations for it.
According to him, it might be utilized for drug addicts who are at risk of inadvertently consuming fentanyl.
Dr. Haile gave the example of a parent pressuring their child to get immunized prior to leaving for college so that they would be protected in case they “experimented.”
Rapper Mac Miller, who passed away in 2018, and pop singer Prince, who passed away in 2016, are two noteworthy cases of fentanyl overdose.
Experts point out that the southern border crisis is the primary route by which the substance is transported into America. Illicit forms of the drug are primarily imported from Mexico via China.
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