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Antibody-based drug shows benefits for meth addiction treatment

November 5, 2014
by Julia Brown
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An Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV)-based medication that was recently developed could potentially offer protective effects for patients attempting to stop using methamphetamine.

Eric Peterson, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences have used AAV particles to deliver genes that produce high-affinity, anti-meth antibody fragments in mice.

“The antibody-based medications we are developing work very differently than small molecule drugs (such as naloxone and buprenorphine),” Peterson says. “Instead of acting on receptors inside the brain, the antibody therapies stay largely in the bloodstream and bind to methamphetamine molecules, preventing or reducing entry into the brain.”

Peterson says that the overall purpose of combing antibody therapy and gene therapy is to provide a medication that will confer long-term protection to a patient that is currently undergoing behavioral therapy to stop using the drug. Because the therapy does not have activity on receptors in the brain and is not addictive, he says it could potentially be used along with other medications that help the patient maintain abstinence from methamphetamine use. 

“We envision that that this approach of anti-meth antibodies combined with gene therapy could be used for severely addicted patients that have not been able to achieve abstinence through other means,” he says. “If successful, a single dose of these new medications could offer protection for a patient for months to years, offering a solution for patient non-compliance with other forms of medication. These medications are years from the clinic, but offer a glimpse of new paradigms for treating drug abuse in the future.”

The anti-meth, antibody-based therapies tightly bind and sequester meth away from sites of action in the brain and diminish the psychologically rewarding effects of meth abuse, which could reduce medical setbacks caused by relapses, according to a release.

Further experiments will be needed, and the group has received a four-year National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse grant to support the research.

There are currently no FDA-approved therapies that specifically treat methamphetamine abuse.

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