Cigarette smoking is one of the leading causes of poor health in the world. Smoking accounts for about one of every five deaths in the US. Globally, smoking causes 6 million deaths per year via cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It also increases risk of tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis. It can even cause erectile dysfunction in males.
Most smokers know about these harmful effects but find it extremely difficult to quit. This is due to the presence of an addictive compound called Nicotine.
When one smokes, nicotine enters the blood stream and passes from the lungs to the brain and within seconds stimulates the release of many chemical messengers such as acetylcholine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine etc. These chemical messengers produce various mood-enhancing effects such as arousal, anxiety, pain relief etc. This causes addiction and over time it causes the above-mentioned diseases. Most cigarettes contain 1 to 3 milligrams of nicotine in a single smoke.
There are various products available which can help quit smoking. These include Gums, nicotine patches etc which are designed to replace cigarettes or to prevent nicotine from reaching the brain, but various surveys show that these methods have very low success rate and only 15-30% of smokers are actually able to quit for more than one year.
Researchers under the guidance of Kim D Janda have now come up with a new method that may prove to be very effective. An enzyme NicA2 extracted from Psuedomonas putida a gram negative, rod-shaped, saprotrophic soil bacterium has been tested to be very effective in degrading nicotine. Experimental tests showed that NicA2 was able to breakdown all of nicotine present in the blood stream within 30 minutes. In addition to that, it remained stable in buffer solutions and when tested on mice showed no observable side effects.