Smoking can lead to severe brain damage; find scientists from Indian National Brain Research Center (NBRC).
The study shows that a compound in tobacco provokes white blood cells in the central nervous system to attack healthy cells, resulting in severe neurological damage.
According to lead researchers from Debapriya Ghosh and Dr. Anirban Basu, NNK, a chemical substance that becomes carcinogenic when it is altered by the metabolic process of the body can cause neuroinflamation, a condition, which leads to disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis.
"Considering the extreme economical and disease burden of neuroinflammation related disorders, it is extremely important from a medical, social and economic point of view to discover if NNK in tobacco causes neuroinflammation," said Ghosh.
To reach the conclusion, team conducted two types of tests, one outside of a living host in glass and one in laboratory mice.
It used blot analysis techniques, which showed that the introduction of NNK resulted in a clear increase in proinflammatory signaling proteins, proinflammatory effector proteins and other stress related proteins.
In addition, increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines, which act as molecular messengers between cells, were also detected.
This showed that NNK provoked an exaggerated response from the brain's immune cells, known as microglia, which act as 'destroyers' for the brain by attacking damaged or unhealthy cells.
However, when provoked by NNK these cells start to attack healthy brain cells rather than the unhealthy cells they are supposed to attack.
"Our findings prove that tobacco compound NNK can activate microglia significantly which subsequently harms the nerve cells," said Basu.
The researchers said that NNK is present in all forms of tobacco and therefore it can also enter the body through chewing. Even second hand smoke can lead to the same neuroinflamation conditions.
The study will be published in the July issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry.