They have been researching a method to modify epidermal stem cells to express the enzyme human Butyrylcholinesterase (hBChE). hBChE is the more efficient and potent form of BChE, made naturally in a body's plasma cells, and it can break down cocaine into less toxic and less rewarding compounds, thereby decreasing a person’s urge to seek cocaine.3 The scientists modified epidermal stem cells using CRISPR, a practice that allows DNA sequences to be changed and genetic function to be manipulated.2 They used this technique to increase the efficiency of hBChE and to facilitate its long term production in epidermal stem cells. Then, the scientists transplanted these same stem cells into mice, and discovered that it prevented them from seeking cocaine and potentially overdosing on it. In order to see if the same effect occurred in human cells, the scientists transferred the same CRISPR-edited epidermal stem cells into human cells ex vivo. They discovered that higher amounts of hBChE were created and these broke down cocaine more efficiently.3
This study is extremely beneficial for cocaine abusers as we have discovered that epidermal stem cells could possibly help decrease their desire for cocaine. By preventing addicts from inflicting more damage to their bodies, this treatment could make them change their habits and help them get their lives back on track. It would help addicts that likely have financial struggles because they spend most of their money obtaining the drug regularly.5 Hence, if further experimentation transforms this into a proven medical treatment for humans, it would certainly be extremely beneficial to countless cocaine addicts and their families.