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Enzyme Therapy Holds Potential for Fighting Cocaine Addiction


April 1993

Researchers have developed an enzyme that possesses the capacity to destroy cocaine molecules under laboratory conditions, providing hope that this or a similar enzyme might someday be used to fight cocaine addiction in humans (Virginia Morell, "Enzyme May Blunt Cocaine's Action," Science, Vol. 259, 3/26/93, p. 1828; Donald Landry, Kang Zhao, Ginger Yang, et al, "Antibody-Catalyzed Degradation of Cocaine," Science, Vol. 259, 3/26/93, p. 1899).

The enzyme is from a class of enzymes called catalytic monoclonal antibodies. The idea of applying enzymes to drug addiction is not entirely novel, but the application of catalytic antibodies that do not deplete after breaking down the target molecules is. In theory, a human immunized with the catalytic enzyme would cease to find cocaine psychologically reinforcing because the psychoactive molecules would be broken down before they could induce euphoria. At present, the research is highly tentative, and researchers caution that many hurdles must be crossed if the technique is ever to be clinically useful in treating cocaine addiction.

The research is being conducted by a team of researchers headed by Donald Landry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.