Science 3 min read

A new Heroin Vaccine and AI That Treats Bipolar Disorder

Lipik | Shutterstockcom

Lipik | Shutterstockcom

In two unrelated health and medical advancements, researchers present an experimental vaccine that suppresses some of heroin’s negative effects on the body, and an AI solution that predicts how bipolar disorder patients would react to treatment.

Researchers develop a heroin vaccine and a bipolar treatment prediction AI.Click To Tweet

Heroin Vaccine Won’t Cure the Bigger Problem

Heroin triggers euphoria by activating the opioid receptors in the nervous system, and therein lies the danger.

The general relaxation of body’s systems induced by heroin could cause a slowdown in breathing and, in case of an overdose, lead to respiratory arrest and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, 13,000 people died from heroin overdose.

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), who have been conducting research on animals for eight years, have developed a vaccine that prevents heroin from reaching the brain, which has shown promise dissuading addiction to the drug. After rodents, the experimental vaccine was successfully tested in primates (monkeys).

Once clinical trials show its effectiveness in humans, the new vaccine could be part of the standard therapy to treat heroin addicts.

A study on the new vaccine was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

This is not the first solution that aims to suppress the “high” feeling of drugs, but TSRI’s “vaccine” utilizes the body’s own defense mechanism (antibodies) to fend off heroin as a foreign organism. However, treating drugs with other drugs may lead to similar abuses.

As the heroin vaccine doesn’t suppress cravings, addicts would constantly need (increasing?) doses and might even look to get high with other drugs.

There is also the problem of environmental causes of drug addiction. This pharmacuetical solution doesn’t help to provide addicts with an emotional support system, the lack of which is drives many to abuse drugs in the first place.

From top to bottom, our society will have to figure out ways to better support underprivileged and neglected peoples so that they find satisfaction and support outside of drugs.

AI System That’s Equally Useful in Avionics and Psychiatry

Lithium is a metal present in nature and also, in very small quantities, in the human body. One of the oldest psychotropic drugs, lithium is widely used to treat bipolar disorder.

Researchers at the UC College of Medicine (University of Cincinnati) conducted a study using an app that was originally designed for air-to-air combat–called “genetic fuzzy trees”–to predict how bipolar patients would respond to lithium.

According to UC researchers, their machine-learning system was shown to be a 100% accurate in predicting patients’ response to lithium, against only 75% achieved by the eight best models available today.

The UC AI model will be more than helpful for at least 4% of the adult population in the United States (about six million adults) who suffer severe mood swings and fluctuate between depression and mania. This novel system would heto assigning individualized treatment for bipolar patients, which remains very difficult.

The findings of the study were published in the journal Bipolar Disorders.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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