Coming soon: World’s first anti-stress vaccine

You may no longer need popping pills, yoga or mediation to get relief from chronic stress.

London: You may no longer need popping pills,
yoga or mediation to get relief from chronic stress, as
scientists claim they are close to developing a vaccine that
can help you cope with the condition.

Scientists at the Stanford University in California said
a single jab of the world`s first anti-stress vaccine, which
is the result of 30 years of research, could help people relax
without slowing down.

Chronic stress, which is linked to illnesses ranging
from diabetes to heart attacks.

Stressing that it is possible to alter brain chemistry
to create a state of "focused calm", Dr Robert Sapolsky, a
professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, said he was
on the path to a genetically engineered formula that would
remove the need for relaxation therapies or prescription
drugs, the Daily Mail reported.

Professor Sapolsky, who first observed the damage
caused by stress on animals in Kenya, has been studying
hormones called glucocorticoids, which are part of the body`s
immune system and help fight cancer and inflammation.

All mammals produce these hormones, which help them
deal with a threat -- often by running away.

But Professor Sapolsky has observed that, while a
zebra will turn off the stress chemicals after escaping from a
lion, modern man not only produces too many glucocorticoids in
response to everyday alarms but cannot turn them off

He said the hormone becomes toxic both biologically,
by destroying brain cells and weakening the immune system, and
socially, when people continue to snap at their friends or
family hours after the original cause of tension has vanished.

After early setbacks, the Stanford team has adapted a
herpes virus to carry engineered `neuroprotective` genes deep
into the brain to neutralise the rogue hormones before they
can cause damage. The virus is now shown to work on rats.

"To be honest, I`m still amazed that it works," Prof
Sapolsky said.

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."

Last week, a Stanford University colleague, who called
the potential vaccine `the Sapolsky shot`, said: "In humans
this engineered virus would short-circuit the neural feedback
caused by stress, that lingering feeling of tension after a
crisis has passed.

"It would leave you fresher and ready to deal with
another threat, so you can maintain your drive, but with more
focused calm rather than bad temper and digestion.

"This could change society."

Last week, Prof Sapolsky left Stanford to take his own
"proven medicine" for stress: He turned off his email and is
spending August with his family.


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