A Pacman-like bacterial enzyme could become the next anti-smoking drug, according to researchers at the Scripps Research Institute.
Professor Kim Janda, research associate Joel Schlosburg and Song Xue used this laboratory recreated bacterial enzyme to study its effect on smoking cessation.
The NicA2 enzyme, derived from the Pseudomonas putida bacteria is found in natural conditions in tobacco-planted fields. Here, the nitrogen and carbon components of nicotine make it the only food source of NicA2.
While the enzyme is naturally found in these fields, researchers thought that its application in anti-smoking therapies would be invaluable. So, they recreated the bacteria enzyme under laboratory conditions.
The majority of anti-smoking drugs and therapies already available on the market were found to be unsuccessful in 80 to 90 percent of cases. The main cause is related to the fact that all alternatives fail to address the main component of the smoking crave: nicotine and the way it influences the brain. Symptoms of nicotine deprivation are the main cause for relapse.
As NicA2 devours nicotine under natural conditions, the research team studied if the lab-created enzyme would do the same with nicotine in the body of a smoker. Also, if nicotine is destroyed before it reaches the brain, where it boosts the addiction.
Kim Janda commented:
“Our research is in the early phase of the drug development process, but the study tells us the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic”.
The laboratory study was conducted on mice. Combining the nicotine equivalent of one cigarette with serum, the researchers injected the cocktail in the mice. Further, the bacterial enzyme NicA2 was also injected.
The results were indeed surprising. Typically, the half-life of nicotine is two to three hours. When the enzyme was added, it dropped to 9, at most 15 minutes. According to the researchers’ estimates, the higher the enzyme dose, the higher the chances nicotine never reaches the brain.
The laboratory-created bacterial enzyme was stable in the serum. Also, it is stable under laboratory conditions if kept at 98 degrees Fahrenheit no longer than three weeks. Furthermore, when studied further, it was found that as NicA2 gulped down nicotine, no toxic metabolites traces were left in the mice’s bodies.
The study features online in the Journal of the American Online Society.
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