Nicotine-Eating Bacteria May Lead to a New Anti-Smoking Therapy

A nicotine-eating bacterial enzyme may help in anti-smoking therapies as the enzyme seeks out and consumes nicotine before it ever reaches the smoker’s brain, showing promise as a nicotine addiction therapy in the future.

Scripp Research Institute Finds a New Potential Anti-Smoking Therapy

A new study published by scientists from the Scripps Research Institute may provide the next anti-smoking therapy by using a nicotine-eating bacteria first found in tobacco fields.

The researchers at the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at the Scripps Research Institute believe they are in the early phases of the long process of drug development. However, they are hopeful for the bacterial enzyme and its promise in becoming a successful therapy for those addicted to nicotine.javier-ignacio-acuna-ditzel

Nearly 80 percent of all smokers using any current smoking cessation program ultimately fail, most likely due to the chemical dependence of nicotine along with several other factors. With this new research on the bacterial enzyme, the scientists think a more favorable outcome will be seen within anti-smoking programs.

Nicotine-Eating Bacteria May Prove Successful In Smoking Cessation

The bacterial enzyme driving the potentially new therapy was found in the bacteria Pseudomonas putida. While the name is rather long, the actual enzyme is known as NicA2.

Though the NicA2 enzyme had been studied previously, it wasn’t until now that the researchers have been able to recreate the enzyme in the laboratory. This is perhaps one of the most important aspects for the enzyme’s role in the drug development of a new potential enzyme therapy.

The researchers have said all of the properties of the NicA2 enzyme have been promising in their initial studies. They have compared the enzyme’s appetite for nicotine as a Pac-Man that goes along to just eat up all the nicotine, which is helpful for anti-smoking therapies based on negating the effects of nicotine.

How Will The Nicotine-Eating Bacterial Enzyme Help Smokers

Basically the way enzyme therapy works is the enzyme seeks the nicotine as it enters the body and consumes it, effectively destroying the nicotine, before the drug has a chance of reaching the brain.

While a single cigarette can contain from 10-20 milligrams of nicotine, your body absorbs about 1 to 2 milligrams. This nicotine floods to your brain, triggering the production of dopamine, which is seen by your brain as a “reward” of sorts as is controls the brain’s pleasure center.

In essence, this enzyme therapy would prevent the nicotine from reaching the brain and producing dopamine. The smoker would not get the reward of nicotine as it wouldn’t trigger the pleasure that it would have without the enzyme. Without this reward, there’s less of a chance that the former smoker will relapse into smoking again.

What’s perhaps even more important is that in their research, the scientists did not detect any toxic metabolites as the enzyme degraded nicotine. For the therapy to be successful and safe, it must be stable enough to do the job for which it is intended, but also to not create excessive or additional problems.

Though the study is still in the beginning stages of the exhaustive drug development process, the nicotine-eating bacterial enzyme has shown extremely great promise as a new anti-smoking therapeutic candidate in the years to come.

Additional Image Credit to Javier Ignacio Acuña Ditzel


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