Compounds derived from areca nuts
can help cigarette smokers and betel quid chewers break their addiction.
‘Molecules derived from areca nuts could help quit the smoking habit, compared to current smoking cessation drugs in the market, on account of their specificity and fewer side effects.’
In Southeast Asia, around 600 million
people are addicted to the betel quid preparation that also produes the same
stimulant effects that nicotine does.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, more than 480,000 people die each year in the U.S. from
the effects of cigarette smoking.
"There's a commonality to the two
addictions, so we thought we could develop drugs that target both," says
Roger L. Papke, Ph.D., one of the lead researchers on the project.
Lead researcher Nicole A. Horenstein, Ph.D., and Papke, along with
Clare Stokes and Marta Quadri, Ph.D., are studying the derivatives from the
quid is a concoction of betel leaves, areca nuts and slaked lime (calcium hydroxide).
According to local preferences and customs, other flavoring ingredients are also added.
Sometimes tobacco is added to this
combination and the
concoction is folded into a triangular shape and wrapped using betel vine. It is
said to have a stimulant and relaxation effect.
users' teeth turn bright red as a result of this habit.
This harmful "betel quid"
preparation is addictive and can create a sense of euphoria and alertness. It can also cause serious health issues
like oral cancer and cardiovascular conditions.
to a 2013 study, betel quids lead to around 37,000 cases of oral cancer every
year. Among Indian men aged 30-69 years, oral cancers are responsible for the
highest cancer related mortality.
Betel quid chewing
releases carcinogenic nitrosamines from the areca nut that can cause
derivatives can be used to make new molecules that might work
better than existing smoking cessation drugs such as Chantix® (varenicline).
is a prescription smoking cessation drug
currently used to break addiction. Though it works well, it can trigger harmful
side effects. For example, some patients taking the drug varenicline report
having suicidal thoughts, sleepwalking and cardiovascular problems.
These side-effects encouraged the team of
researchers to work on alternatives at the University of Florida.
Varenicline binds itself to the same
receptors in brain cells that attach to nicotine molecules. It reduces nicotine
cravings by activating those receptors to a lesser degree. Side-effects occur
because the drug also binds to other nicotine receptors that are not involved
Areca Nut Derivatives Work
In their previous work, Papke and
Horenstein had studied arecoline, one of the psychoactive alkaloids in the
by stimulating the same brain cell receptors responsible for nicotine addiction
but does not stimulate the other types of nicotine receptors, that are not
involved in addiction.
Papke explains, "The molecules that
we're developing are more specific - they do not target those other receptors
at all, so our compounds should be safer," he says.
The new study involves synthesizing a
range of compounds with structures that are slightly different from arecoline.
These new compounds bind to the addiction-related
receptors, while leaving the other receptors alone.
shows that arecoline analogs may be able to treat addiction to
cigarettes or to betel quids without side effects.
the addiction to nicotine would help prevent half of the oral
The next step in the research is to test
these potential new drugs in animal trials.
The findings were presented at the 253rd
National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS,
the world's largest scientific society.
- Betel Quid with Tobacco (Gutka) -
- Betel quid chewing is responsible for half of oral
cancer cases in India, finds study - (http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f7536)