Researchers find source of nicotine addiction in brain

Apr 13, 2011

Researchers have been able to pinpoint the site of nicotine addiction in the brain.

Researchers have a connected a genetic mutation on a certain brain receptor to a stronger addiction to nicotine, according to scientists from the Scripps Research Institute.

In a recent article published in the journal Nature, scientists revealed their findings that the mutation, which inhibits the nicotine-related receptor, results in an increased intake in nicotine in test animals.

The receptor, subunit a5, is activated by nicotine receptors that send out a signal when nicotine in the blood has reached a potentially harmful level and encourages smokers to stop taking in more of the drug. However, the mutation may cause the receptor not to function properly, causing smokers not to feel the desire to stop.

"Our data may explain recent human data showing that individuals with genetic variation in the α5 nicotinic receptor subunit are far more vulnerable to the addictive properties of nicotine, and far more likely to develop smoking-associated diseases such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," said research associate Christie Fowler.

Researchers hope that this discovery will enable them to create anti-smoking therapies that target that specific brain receptor and successfully reduce the smoker's addiction to nicotine. In addition to various health benefits, those who are able to quit smoking may enjoy lower health and life insurance premiums.  

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