News of Note—A vaccine against opioid addiction; prompting hearts to heal themselves; combating inflammation

Scripps scientists are developing vaccines designed to prevent opioids from having their desired effects.

Vaccine could fight effects of opioid combos

Scripps scientists have reported progress in developing a vaccine that protects against the effects of both fentanyl and heroin—an advance that could lead to a novel treatment for opioid addiction. The vaccine prompts the body to make antibodies that bind to heroin and prevent it from reaching opioid receptors, in essence preventing the drug from having its intended effect. The team had already reported progress in developing a similar vaccine against fentanyl. A combination vaccine might be able to be used along with methadone, the Scripps team believes, and data on the heroin vaccine suggest it could prevent overdoses. (Release)

Finding the key to a self-healing heart

Could a damaged heart heal itself? Researchers in Singapore report they’ve discovered a long noncoding ribonucleic acid (ncRNA) that regulates certain genes with the power to prompt regeneration of heart cells. If the RNA can be targeted with drugs, it could yield a new treatment for heart failure, which is currently irreversible. The key to the discovery was scrutinizing the genes in a subpopulation of cells in damaged hearts, as well as identifying molecular brakes that prevent heart cells from regenerating. (Release)

New molecule tamps down key inflammatory response

Researchers at Duke Health have created a molecule, Takinib, that interrupts inflammatory responses that drive several diseases, including Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers. It works by inhibiting an enzyme called TAK-1, which controls signaling of a protein called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha)—a key inflammatory instigator. The scientists hope to prove that Takinib can overcome resistance and side effects commonly seen with drugs that are already being used to interfere with TNF-alpha. (Release)