Scientists have found out that what has now been dubbed a Pac-Man enzyme seeks to eat nicotine. This could prove revolutionary in the way of smoking addiction treatment, as the less time nicotine spends in your body after one smokes it, the less addictive the element becomes.
Still, it remains a problem of will, if you smoke six packs a day, then this new enzyme will probably not help you at all. And even if you don’t, you’ll probably have to wait a while until this enzyme gets made into an actual pill. We don’t even yet know if it will be a pill, but the drug is far from being done.
The Scripps Research Institute has been working to find a good treatment against smoking addiction for an excruciatingly long time. No kidding – 30 years is almost a life’s work, no, it IS a life’s work. So you would understand why study author Kim Janda and his colleagues are not that excited – yet.
The work implied the creation of such an enzyme. Ironical as it may appear for some, they have found the enzyme in a very self-obvious place: the tobacco field. Precisely, in the soil surrounding the tobacco plant there lives the bacteria Pseudomonas putrida. This bacteria contains the NicA2, the culprit enzyme, responsible for going amok gobbling up all the nicotine it can find. And you would expect it to, as in a bacteria that needs carbon and nitrogen, nicotine is the only source of either of them for the enzyme.
Janda himself dubbed the little hero Pac-Man and said that all the tests for its capabilities have proven it can do what they were searching for. It seems that sometimes, when searching for anti-addiction drugs, turning back to nature is still the best option.
The enzyme works by preventing the nicotine one gets (from cigarettes or other tobacco sources) from getting to the brain. This effectively stops the addiction inducing effects. To test this, the researchers added one cigarette’s worth of nicotine to a small sample of blood and waited to see the results. To their amazement, the half-life of the nicotine (which is usually between two to three hours) dropped to just between 9 and 15 minutes.
The scientists speculate that the enzyme could be even more effective if it would be higher dosed and chemically enhanced. The scientists even synthesized a potential drug which they tested. They left it in the lab for three weeks at 98 degrees Fahrenheit. To their second surprise, the drug did not only survive and was stable enough to eat nicotine, it did not become the least bit toxic, leaving nothing behind after its reaction.
The next step for the team is to see possible side-effects and then everything is ready for the distribution of the drug.
Image source: gamespot.com