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Quit Smoking Enzyme Stops Nicotine Addiction in Rats Without Withdrawal Symptoms



An enzyme that could help people quit smoking was developed by scientists and successfully tested in rats. While its potential for treating human nicotine addiction is far away, researchers believe it could be turned into a pill that prevents smokers from losing the drug and potentially without any withdrawal symptoms.

Scientists performed an experiment in which two groups of rats were trained to self-manage nicotine for two weeks. Their intake of nicotine increased, indicating addiction.

One of these groups was then given to the enzyme and the other not. Both groups were still able to self-administer nicotine.

Of the enzyme group, the rats received different levels of NicA2-J1

. This enzyme degrades nicotine levels that indicate the reduced drug area in the blood. The researchers found that, at higher levels, the enzyme leads to a reduction in the intake of nicotine. The rats also showed no withdrawal symptoms or "irritable" behavior.

The results, published in Science Advances indicate that the enzyme is effective in the treatment of nicotine dependence in animal models and that it could be further developed for human use in the future.

 lab rat Representative image of laboratory rat. The rats treated with the enzyme that degraded nicotine showed less compelling behaviors. iStock

It is estimated that almost 28 million adults smoke cigarettes in the United States. About 16 million people currently live with a smoking-related illness and reducing smoking rates is a public health problem. Giant steps are taking place, however, rates have dropped from 20 percent in 2005 to 15 percent in 2016 but still remains a big problem across the country. It is estimated that, if current trends continue, 5.6 million children living in the United States today will die prematurely for a smoking-related illness.

The research was conducted by Marsida Kallupi and Olivier George of the Scripps Research Institute in California. George told Newsweek that they will have to do further research on mice to make sure the enzyme is not toxic and modify it accordingly if there are any problems. He also said that I am confident that this will also carry out human tests.

"Until now we have not seen any significant toxic effects, so we are very optimistic," he said. "The biggest obstacle is not scientific here, it's actually finding the funding that will allow us to take this approach to the clinic … once the funds are guaranteed, I expect we will make very rapid progress."

 stop smoking Representative image. It is estimated that nearly 28 million adults smoke cigarettes in the United States. iStock

"The idea would be that smokers who want to quit will take a pill every week to maintain high levels of the enzyme in the blood and I would continue to smoke at first, because the enzyme will trap most of the nicotine, it will progressively become less dependent on nicotine without going through abstinence and will find the cigarette less and less attractive.Our data show that individuals following this protocol would have greater chances to resign and less risk of relapse.Although they quit completely, they would continue to take the enzyme if they had an interval to make sure that a complete relapse would not be resolved. "

that the lack of withdrawal in rats was a huge surprise. They believe this may have happened because the enzyme leaves a miniscule trace of nicotine in the blood that may be sufficient to avoid any withdrawal symptoms until the level of dependency is negligible.

If this translates into man, it may help smokers to skip the withdrawal phase and help prevent relapse. "There are a lot of studies that show that smokers who switch to cigarettes do not like and eventually return to their favorite nicotine cigarette," George said. "The beauty of our enzymatic approach is that the enzyme would make every cigarette dicked, there would not be a chance to cheat as long as you take the pill."


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