The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, states that the NicA2 enzyme produced by the Pseudomonas Putida bacteria could stop nicotine from reaching the smoker’s brain and therefore reducing the pleasant feeling gained from smoking. The Pseudomonas Putida eats up nicotine as the only source of nitrogen and carbon.
But for those wary of having a bacterium introduced into their organism, rest assured: researchers are only considering the use of the specific nicotine eating enzyme in the drug, which the researchers have jokingly named “Pac-Man”.
The team which performed the research was led by Dr. Kim Janda, a chemistry professor at the California based The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), a non-profit research organization specializing in biomedical sciences. Dr. Janda and some of her colleagues who participated in the research have been searching for this breakthrough for over 30 years according to a statement released on the TSR I website, but they just recently discovered the NicA2 enzyme.
“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. The stability of the enzyme at human body temperature was pretty remarkable”, said Dr. Janda in the statement.
What is unique about the drug proposed by Dr. Janda and her colleagues is how it differs in approach to other smoking treatments. While specialized pills or plasters try to either replace nicotine or offer only small doses of it to the brain, the new drug aims to cut off the nicotine from reaching the brain entirely. The fact that it can be used while smoking and not as a smoking substitute is also remarkable, as theoretically smokers might start to stop associating the act of smoking with the nicotine-induced pleasure after the sensation is no longer there.
The initial tests of the enzyme proved to be encouraging, despite the fact that they were performed on mice, showing that enzyme has the potential of eating up nicotine in fast enough to prevent it from reaching the brain. The team will now try to stabylize the enzyme serum as to minimize any potential side-effects it can have and maximize its nicotine-eating capabilities, though months or possibly years of testing are still to be expected before reaching a conclusive result.
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