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Study Finds Key to Curbing Nicotine Dependence in a Brain Protein Receptor

A new study found that hindering the action of a particular neuropeptide receptor can substantially curb the desire for nicotine in animal subjects. The data taken from the said research may also be able to explain why human smokers quit smoking after suffering from brain injuries that are localized in a small area of the frontal cortex.

The findings of the said study were published in an online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the scientists, a neuropeptide called, hypocretin-1 (Orexin A) may hold the key to a series of biochemical chain reactions that are associated with addiction to tobacco in humans. This protein can well become a new potential target for various treatments aimed at helping individuals quit smoking.

Orexin A is associated with the regulation of motivated behavior which has a huge influence on cocaine-seeking acts. This is where the study was based from. The researchers wanted to find out whether the same protein is causing nicotine dependence.

According to Paul Kenny, Ph.D., of the Scripps Research at Scripps Florida and head of the research, blocking the action of the receptors for this neuropeptide appeared to reduce nicotine cravings in rats as well as curbed the stimulatory effects of nicotine on the subjects’ brain reward mechanisms. “This suggests that hypocretin-1 may play a major role in driving tobacco use in smokers to want more nicotine. If we can find a way to effectively block this receptor, it could mean a novel way to help break people’s addiction to tobacco.”

The findings of the said study has a huge significance in the fight against cigarette smoking as this is considered to be one of the most prevalent causes of death and disease in developed countries. The habit “accounts for approximately 440,000 deaths and $160 billion in health-related costs annually in the United States alone.” Only about ten percent of those who quit smoking every year ever manage to avoid the getting a smoke for at least a year which proves just how difficult it is to shun this habit.

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