In what could become one of the more unique applications ofcatalytic antibodies, researchers have created in the test tubeantibodies that are able to bind specifically to cocaine andbreak it down into two inert byproducts -- the same two thatare found in the circulatory systems of people who have takencocaine hydrochloride or cocaine free base.

To create the antibody, Donald Landry and his colleagues atColumbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeonsimmunized mice with a compound that resembles the cocainetransition state (the high-energy unstable chemicalintermediate in the catalytic breakdown of cocaine to thebyproducts ecognine methyl ester and benzoic acid). Theirresults appear in today's issue of Science.

The antibodies, being catalytic, are not used up in the reaction;thus they can remain in the circulation for some time.

"An antibody that merely bound cocaine would be depletedwith the first dose," the researchers stated. If these catalyticantibodies were administered as a type of passiveimmunization, they could prevent cocaine from reaching itsreceptors on brain tissue.

The addictive potential of cocaine is apparently related notonly to how much, but also to how fast it gets to the brain, andthese are determined by the rise and rate of the rise of itsserum concentration. The faster cocaine rises in the serum, themore it concentrates in the brain, and the more addictive it is.

Landry believes that even a weak catalytic antibody thatwould break down the drug in the bloodstream could beclinically useful by blunting the addictive effect of cocaine. "Itholds the promise of preventing a complete relapse for addictsin treatment who succumb to renewed drug use," Landry said.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.