Breakthrough: Drug to Help Quit Smoking


Researchers in Finland are working on what could be a major breakthrough in the battle against cigarettes -- a targeted drug to help smokers quit.

A report on EurekAlert said researchers at the Academy of Finland's Research Program on Substance Use and Addictions are working on a drug that would slow down the metabolism of nicotine, which would help people cut back on smoking.

EurekAlert explains:

Nicotine is absorbed rapidly through the lining of the mouth but most readily through the lungs, from where it quickly passes through the body and into the brain. Once the nicotine reaches the liver, it is metabolized by an enzyme called CYP2A6. Preliminary studies by the Canadian partner of the research project have shown that inhibitors of the nicotine-metabolizing CYP2A6 enzyme can help smokers curb the need to smoke. Unfortunately, current CYP2A6 inhibitors are not viable options for anti-smoking therapy, as they involve too many adverse effects.

"We're working on developing a CYP2A6 inhibitor, a targeted drug that would only be effective in specific parts of the body," said Hannu Raunio, the project's principal investigator and Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Eastern Finland.

Raunio said his team has discovered several molecules that could bind to CYP2A6 enzyme.

"However, it'll take a good while – and money – before these molecules can be developed into a targeted drug," Raunio said.

Standard anti-smoking drugs such as nicotine, buproprion and varenicline only help relieve withdrawal symptoms -- they don't actually do anything to the body to make people stop smoking. This new drug, if it ever happens, would be the first to actually do that.

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