New Breakthrough Study Just Might Pave the Way in Helping Smokers Quit Smoking

Posted by Staff Reporter ( on Aug 10, 2015 12:00 AM EDT
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WHO Urges Smokers To Quit On World No Tobacco Daymore big
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 31: Isaiah Atkinson smokes a cigarette in front of the San Francisco Centre on May 31, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Since 1987, the World Health Organization has celebrated 'World No Tobacco Day' to raise awareness to the health risks associated with smoking tobacco. Smoking is the second biggest cause of death globally and is responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide. (Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A bacteria known as Pseudomonas putida was discovered to have the potential to eat nicotine in the bloodstream, thus preventing nicotine from reaching the brain and thwarting smoker's high.

After 30 years of constant research in finding a successful cessation agent to help smokers decrease or fully cease their bad habit, scientists from Scripps Research Institute finally found their no-smoking agent, literally in the roots of the problem.

Kim Janda, senior author of the study and a professor of Chemistry, together with his team, found a bacterium that can only be found in the soil of Tobacco fields. The bacterium, Pseudomonas putida, can be found only in places near Tobacco soils and get their nutrients (such as Carbon and Nitrogen) by consuming nicotine from the Tobacco plant.

According to Prof. Janda, the bacterium uses an enzyme, NicA2, to chomp nicotine "like a Pacman."

The team successfully extracted the said enzyme from the bacterium to use for their trials.

The researchers first incorporated nicotine equivalent to a stick of cigarette to a serum (component of blood) from a mice, then they added the enzyme NicA2. They observed that when they added the enzyme, the nicotine's half-life dropped from two to three hours to just 9 to 15 minutes. Janda said that if they heighten the amount of the enzyme and make a few chemical alterations, it is plausible that the half-life of nicotine will decrease even further.

"Our research is in the early phase of the drug development process, but the study tells us the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic," said Janda.

The enzyme from the nicotine-eating bacteria is surprisingly stable in the serum and doesn't give off any toxic metabolites as byproduct of its nicotine consumption.

Janda has teamed up with Song Xue, a graduate from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), and Joel Schlosburg, also from TSRI, for the study entitled: "A new strategy for smoking cessation: Characterization of a bacterial enzyme for the degradation of nicotine."

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