A bacterial enzyme may be a future candidate in smoking cessation, according to a new study led by researchers at The Scripps Institute. Findings from the study are published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Current smoking cessation aids have proven to be ineffective in at least 80–90% of smokers. This novel enzyme therapy would be to eliminate nicotine before it reaches the brain as to not trigger a smoker into relapse. The NicA2 enzyme is found in the, which is originally from soil in a tobacco field. The bacteria consumes nicotine as its one source of carbon and nitrogen. Researchers set out to test its potential efficacy as a therapeutic agent.
The team combined serum from mice with a nicotine dose equivalent to one cigarette. When the enzyme was added, they found the nicotine's half-life was cut from 2–3 hours to just 9–15 minutes. A higher dose of the enzyme could decrease the half-life of nicotine even more and prevent it from reaching the brain. The team then tested the enzyme to assess its practicality as a drug candidate. The enzyme remained stable in the lab for over three weeks at 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, the scientists did not find any toxic metabolites produced when the enzyme broke down nicotine.
Future studies will include improving the enzyme's serum stability so that a single injection can last up to a month, researchers concluded.