A large percentage of people who seek treatment for a substance use disorder also smoke cigarettes. While some are able to use smoking cessation therapies while in treatment to beat nicotine, more times than not the habit follows patients after treatment. Quitting smoking is a challenging feat and researchers continue to look for new ways to aid smokers in their attempt to quit.
Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have conducted a study on a bacterial enzyme that could prove useful in creating a new smoking cessation drug, ScienceDaily reports. The enzyme can be recreated in lab settings.
“Our research is in the early phase of drug development process, but the study tells us the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic,” said Kim Janda, the Ely R. Callaway Jr. Professor of Chemistry and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at TSRI.
The researchers would like to use the enzyme to “seek out and destroy” nicotine before it reaches the brain, disabling the user’s ability to achieve the desired euphoric effect. The idea is similar to other drugs available that block the euphoric effects of opioids, such as naltrexone.
NicA2 is a bacteria known as Pseudomonas putida, it is found in the soil of a tobacco field. The bacterium relies on nicotine, being its only source of carbon and nitrogen, according to the article.
“The bacterium is like a little Pac-Man,” said Janda. “It goes along and eats nicotine.”
It will be interesting to see if a drug is developed out of the bacterial enzyme, and if so, the impact it has on the future of smoking cessation. Keep in mind that the current smoking cessation therapies available are not successful for at least 80 to 90 percent of smokers.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
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