Brain Mapping Of Nicotine Addiction Helps In Better Understanding Of The Process

by Dr. Meenakshy Varier on  October 4, 2016 at 12:00 AM Research News
RSS Email Print This Page Comment
Font : A-A+

A scientific blueprint to end tobacco cravings may be on the way after researchers crystallized a protein that holds answers to how nicotine addiction occurs in the brain.
Brain Mapping Of Nicotine Addiction Helps In Better Understanding Of The Process
Brain Mapping Of Nicotine Addiction Helps In Better Understanding Of The Process

Despite widespread education on the dangers of tobacco use, it still causes nearly 6 million deaths per year worldwide, with smoking the leading cause of preventable death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarettes alone account for 1 in 5 deaths annually in the U.S.

The breakthrough at the Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute comes after decades of failed attempts to crystallize and determine the 3D structure of a protein that scientists expect will help them develop new treatments by understanding nicotine's molecular effects.

"It's going to require a huge team of people and a pharmaceutical company to study the protein and develop the drugs, but I think this is the first major stepping stone to making that happen," said Dr. Ryan Hibbs, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Biophysics with the O'Donnell Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center, who co-authored the findings published in Nature.

The protein, called the α4β2 (alpha-4-beta-2) nicotinic receptor, sits on nerve cells in the brain. Nicotine binds to the receptor when someone smokes a cigarette or chews tobacco, causing the protein to open a path for ions to enter the cell. The process produces cognitive benefits such as increased memory and focus but is also highly addictive.

Until the new findings were generated, scientists didn't have a way to examine at atomic resolution how nicotine achieves these cognitive and addictive effects. 

The expectation is that the 3D structures will help researchers understand how nicotine influences the activity of the receptor and lead to a medication that mimics its actions in the brain.

The finding may also have benefits in creating medications for certain types of epilepsy, mental illness, and dementia such as Alzheimer's, which are also associated with the nicotine receptor. However, Dr. Hibbs cautioned that testing of any ensuing treatment would likely take many years.

Studies have shown smoking cessation drugs have mixed results in treating nicotine addiction, as have other methods such as nicotine patches and chewing gum.

The team's next steps involve determining structures in the absence of nicotine, and in the presence of molecules with different functional effects. Comparisons between structures will allow them to understand better what nicotine does, and how its actions are distinct from those of other chemicals, said Dr. Hibbs, Effie Marie Cain Scholar in Medical Research.



Source: Medindia

Post a Comment

Comments should be on the topic and should not be abusive. The editorial team reserves the right to review and moderate the comments posted on the site.
* Your comment can be maximum of 2500 characters
Notify me when reply is posted
I agree to the terms and conditions

Related Links

More News on:

Parkinsons Disease Smoking And Cancer Smoking And Tobacco Parkinsons Disease Surgical Treatment Cannabis Drug Abuse Brain Brain Facts Ataxia Drug Detox 

News A - Z

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

News Search

Medindia Newsletters

Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Stay Connected

  • Available on the Android Market
  • Available on the App Store

Facebook

News Category

News Archive