Researchers from Canada point out to two genes, both variant forms of a gene called CYP2A6, which are believed to play in a significant role in the smoking addiction. The protein product of these genes is believed to help regulate the elimination of nicotine from the body.
The two identified gene forms are found to decrease the level of enzymes involved in the metabolism of nicotine, more specifically found to account for slow processing of nicotine in the body. As a consequence of this effect, the brain is quickly exposed to high concentrations of nicotine. This gives the smoker a feeling of pleasure that might eventually hold the key to smoking addiction.
Nearly 1,300 were enrolled for the present study and were required to furnish details about their smoking habit. Amongst the study participants, blood samples were drawn from 281 individuals (all identified smokers), for testing their genetic constitution with respect to the CYP2A6 gene.
At a follow up conducted 30 months later, nearly 30% of the identified smokers had become dependent on cigarettes. It was further established that individuals with a variant form of the CYP2A6 gene three times more likely to become addicted than those with the regular form of the gene.
Interestingly, these individuals are at substantially increased risk of becoming dependent but once dependent, smoke less. The findings further serve to explain why some youngsters quickly take to smoking, overcoming the initial dizziness and nausea, arising out of nicotine toxicity.
Previously, Oxford University researchers had identified a variant of the gene, DRD2 32806, found to play a significant role in smoking addiction. The gene was found to control dopamine, a chemical that was responsible for a sense of pleasure following smoking. It was further evident that women who had a variant form of the gene were only half as likely to quit smoking and stay off tobacco.
Identification of the above mentioned genetic pattern of an individual could go a long way in formulating tobacco control programmes for adolescents and adults in the future. For all you know, quitting smoking could be made as simple as introducing a corrected version of the smoking gene into a smoker. With the ever-increasing advancements in the field of genetics, such a gene therapy treatment seems reachable with sustained efforts.