New research shows potential to kick nicotine addiction for good, without adverse effects

Nicotine - Western Michigan University
Posted at 4:11 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 16:11:19-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — New research conducted in West Michigan could help people addicted to smoking quit cold turkey without any withdrawal or chance for relapse.

The research was published on Monday in the journal "Nature Chemical Biology".

It uses the enzyme nicotine oxidoreductase (NicA2) to rid nicotine from the body without any adverse effects, making it easier for those addicted to quit.

"It’s the new year, and so a lot of people have New Year's resolutions to give up smoking. It is really difficult to do," said Dr. Ricky Stull, an enzymologist and assistant professor for the Department of Chemistry at Western Michigan University.

RELATED: Now may be the time to quit smoking amid COVID-19

The research conducted by Dr. Stull and others corrects a flaw from a similar study conducted with rats back in 2018, which showed an enzyme that grew naturally in bacteria found in tobacco fields, kicked their nicotine addiction.

"The issue with that study was in order to see all of these beneficial effects in the animal model, they had to give outrageous amounts of enzyme doses to the animals," said Dr. Stull.

Dr. Stull said that wouldn't translate to humans, so, along with the help of undergraduate researcher Christopher Clark and others, they found a different way to potentially make it work.

"Testing it to eventually find that my enzyme that should work with oxygen historically doesn’t work with oxygen. It works with cytochrome c," said Christopher Clark, an undergraduate researcher under Dr. Stull.

From this, they were able to use a lower dose of the enzyme with the protein to discover it could help kick a nicotine addiction with other benefits.

"The fact that it seems to work without any withdrawal symptoms. That is one of the hardest things when people try to quit cold turkey is that there are intense cravings, intense withdrawals and also their susceptibility to relapse upon re-exposure," said Dr. Stull.

While Dr. Stull doesn't have a timeline for moving this forward even more, he said the next steps would be to conduct an animal study to prove this research would work on humans.

RELATED: Children exposed to secondhand smoke are hospitalized more often

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