Antidote for cocaine overdose works in mice

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have developed an injectable treatment that can protect mice from an otherwise lethal dose of cocaine. The findings could lead to human clinical trials of a ready-made solution of antibodies — similar to how snakebite is treated — designed to reverse the effects of cocaine in an emergency situation. Currently, cocaine is involved in more than 400,000 emergency-room visits and about 5,000 overdose deaths each year in the United States.

If a human version is successfully developed, it would be the first specific antidote for cocaine toxicity. In addition to treating an overdose, the treatment could also prevent near-term, drug-use relapse because antibodies remaining in the circulatory system for a few weeks would negate cocaine’s trademark stimulant effect.

The findings are reported in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics. News release at

Big time data preservation

Chronopolis, a large-scale data preservation network, has received the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval in the digital-preservation community.

Chronopolis was launched in 2008 as one of the Library of Congress’ efforts to collect and preserve at-risk digital information. Chronopolis has the capacity to preserve hundreds of terabytes of digital data of any type or size. The project leverages high-speed networks, mass-scale storage capabilities, and the expertise of partners — led by the UC San Diego Libraries and the San Diego Supercomputer Center — to provide a secure, geographically distributed, and highly redundant archive system. More information at

Breakthrough in identifying microbe variations

The human intestine teems with trillions of bacteria. Most are innocuous or even beneficial. But, microbes can also cause disease, such as occurs in food poisoning. How humans and other animals discriminate between disease-causing and harmless microbes in order to rapidly respond to infections have long been a mystery.

Now a UC San Diego study has shown that intestinal cells in the roundworm C. elegans internalize bacterial toxins that inactivate several host processes. This then triggers an immune response in which the body mounts an immediate attack against the disease-causing microbes.

Roundworms are the laboratory model of choice for such studies because they have intestinal cells similar to human intestinal cells. Therefore, the discovery of a new “pathogen-specific” branch of the immune system could prove to function in a similar manner in humans. Findings appear in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. News release at

Vaccine targets hepatitis C virus

A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has found antibodies that can prevent infection from widely differing strains of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in cell culture and animal models.

HCV’s very high rate of mutation helps it to evade a host’s immune system. The newly discovered antibodies, however, attach to sites on the viral envelope that seldom mutate.

An effective HCV vaccine is desperately needed. The World Health Organization estimates that the virus infects 130 to 170 million people worldwide — nearly three percent of the human population — and spreads to three to four million new people annually.

Findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. News release at

— Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.