Tag Archives: adenovirus

Can adenovirus be used to help cure a cocaine addiction?

Contributed by guest blogger: Jessica Hughes ’11

It is well known that drug addiction is a worldwide problem, and so finding a therapy or cure for this issue would be extremely valuable. Scientists have been trying to create a vaccine for people with drug addictions that would allow them to be rid of their chemical dependence, but there are several challenges they face in trying to do so. First, addictive drugs are small molecules that do not cause an immune response on their own. Furthermore, because of the extremely high level of drugs often found in the blood of a systemic drug user, there needs to be a way to create high-titer, high-affinity antidrug antibodies to address that extremely high drug concentration. This second challenge has limited the effectiveness of many attempts at anti-addiction active immunization strategies.

In a 2010 study, researchers looked at creating an anticocaine vaccine with the help of adenovirus. With the knowledge that inhaled cocaine could not reach its target receptors in the brain when exposed to anticocaine antibodies, researchers looked into the possibility that cocaine addiction could possibly be reversed with an anticocaine vaccine. Here’s where adenovirus came in. Researchers knew that adenovirus gene transfer vectors act as potent immunogens, which provoke adaptive immune responses. They predicted that if they coupled the adenovirus with a cocaine analog, they could elicit high-titer antibodies against cocaine and successfully prevent this drug’s access to the brain. Specifically, they used a disrupted E1-E3- adenovirus gene transfer vector, which means they were able to avoid viral gene products that would pose a risk of infection to the vaccine receiver but still have the benefit of the immunogenic property of the vectors. E1-E3- has been used many times in gene transfer applications, proving to be very safe.

In their experiment, once they created the vaccine (called dAd5GNC), they used mice to test its effects. Both naïve mice and vaccinated mice were given cocaine intravenously, and subsequently their locomotor activity was observed. The administration of cocaine caused hyperlocomotor activity in mice. These effects were completely and consistently reversed for the vaccinated mice. This is a promising result, and further studies obviously need to be done to continue looking into the possibility of using anti-addictive drug vaccines. Some questions to think about: Would an anticocaine vaccine work in the real-life scenario of preventing an addict from relapsing? Could there be dangers with taking these vaccines, such as accidental overdoses of someone trying to obtain the feeling he/she is used to getting from the drug?


Adenovirus-36 and Obesity

Contributed by Guest Blogger: S. Bekele ’14

Obesity is an extremely serious problem, especially in the United States. Excessive weight gain can lead to many health problems, such as diabetes, heart failure, and cancer. Most people think that this is due to overeating and living a sedentary life, but new research suggests that a virus, specifically adenovirus-36, could be one of the causes of obesity. Perhaps obesity is not an overweight person’s fault, it could be simply due to an infection by a virus.
In order to find an association between adenovirus-36 and obesity, researchers in a recent study took blood samples of obese and non-obese subjects. They examined the blood serum to see if it contained antibodies for the adenovirus-36. Their BMI, cholesterol, triglyceride levels and percent body fat were also noted. After all the obese subjects’ data were gathered together, it was found that 30% had adenovirus-36 antibodies, while among the non-obese subjects, 11% had these antibodies. Also what was interesting to note was that obese and non-obese subjects with Ad-36 had lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which were higher for those without the antibodies. Other types of adenovirus antibodies were viewed such as Ad-2, Ad-31 and Ad-37. There were no differences in BMI among obese and non-obese subjects; it appears that Ad-36 is the only strain of adenovirus that is associated with obesity.
From the data, it was shown that obese patients were three times higher to have Ad-36 antibodies. The researchers explained this by suggesting that those that are obese are more likely to be infected with adenovirus-36, since they may have have impaired immune function. Ad-36’s role in obesity is unknown, but researchers came up with a few ideas. For example, Ad-36 may affect fat cells which would in turn lead to an increase in the number and size of those fat cells, thus causing obesity.
The association found between this virus and obesity sparks many interesting questions. Is it truly possible that we can blame a virus (at least partially) for obesity? If we were all vaccinated for adenovirus-36, would there be a great reduction in the number of obese people, especially in the United States? If we begin to understand the effects of this virus, perhaps we can examine how big a role it plays in obesity.