New DNA nanostructure vaccine could help control nicotine's addictive dependence

07/03/2013 - 00:00

A chemical component present in the nightshade family of plants is one of the world’s most tenaciously addictive substances. It is the nicotine contained in tobacco and found in high concentrations in cigarettes. Smoking remains a global scourge; in the U.S. it is the leading source of preventable death.

Yung Chang and her colleagues at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute have launched an ambitious new project, designed to attack nicotine dependence in a radically new way. The research effort, pursued under a new $3.3 million grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, will attempt to design a vaccine conferring immunity to nicotine, using nanoscale structures assembled from DNA.

“The DNA nanostructure enables rational design and construction of synthetic vaccines, because of its precision control over the placement of various antigenic components,” Chang says. “This approach may offer a new strategy to improve the efficacy of many different vaccines.”