Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S. Or 1,300 deaths every day. These alarming statistics have aided in the process of quitting for a lot of people. Often, the first, they turn to various pharmacological aids.
These include patches, gum and other nicotine-releasing products designed to replace cigarettes, as well as drugs that sequester nicotine in the body to prevent it from reaching the brain. The success rates of these options are very low. Only 15 to 30% of smokers who try them are able to stop smoking for longer than one year.
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have devoted more than 30 years into creating an enzyme that can search for and destroy nicotine in the body, much without any definitive success. Now, after changing approach, they have zeroed in on a natural enzyme derived from soil in a tobacco field.
The enzyme is called NicA2 and comes from a bacteria known as Pseudomonas putida and is found to rely entirely on nicotine as a source of carbon and nitrogen.
Dr Kim Janda from the Scripps Research Institute explains: “The bacterium is like a little Pac-Man. It goes along and eats nicotine” Also stated in a press release “Our research is in the early phase of drug development process, but the study tells us the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic,”
This direct statement was in reference to an experiment where serum from mice blood was combined with a dose of nicotine equivalent to that found in a single cigarette. Adding NicA2 to the mix saw the nicotine’s half-life cut from somewhere between two and three hours to between nine and 15 minutes.
The researchers also detected no toxic metabolites produced when the enzyme degraded nicotine. They also subjected the enzyme to a temperature of 98 degrees (the relative temperature of the human body) and it remained stable for 3 weeks. Making it the perfect candidate for Enzyme Therapy.
The idea behind an enzyme therapy would be to seek out and destroy nicotine before it reaches the brain- depriving a person of the “reward” of nicotine that can trigger which essentially takes the pleasure out of it.
Research is currently underway.