Relieving Chronic Stress With Vaccine Possible, says Professor
Dr. Robert Sapolsky has been studying chronic stress for 30 years. The Professor of Neuroscience at Stanford University believes that he has found a genetically engineered formula that would treat stress without therapies or prescription drugs – one that could be delivered via vaccine.
Professor Sapolsky first observed the damage caused by stress on animals in Kenya. Zebras, for example, produce hormones called glucocorticoids which help them deal with a threat – such as a hungry lion in its path.
All animals, including humans, produce glucocorticoids from cortisol, the stress hormone also known as hydrocortisone. The name is derived from early observations that the hormones were involved in glucose metabolism, but glucocorticoids also have anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties.
Cortisol and other glucocorticoids are secreted in response to any type of physical or mental stress. Chronic stress can lead to excessive levels of glucocorticoids which can destroy cells and weaken the immune system. Sapolsky noted that the zebra has the ability to “turn off” the stress chemicals after escaping a lion, but man continues to produces them even when the original cause of tension has vanished.
New stress vaccine
Sapolsky and a team of Stanford researchers has adapted a herpes virus to carry engineered “neuroprotective” genes deep into the brain to neutralize glucocorticoid hormones before they can cause damage – a state he calls “focused calm”. They have successfully tested the stress vaccine, dubbed “The Sapolsky shot” in rats.
“To be honest, I'm still amazed that it works,” Professor Sapolsky told Wired magazine recently.
He warned that human trials are years away, but added: 'We have proved that it's possible. We can reduce the neural damage caused by stress.'