Bacteria that `eats` nicotine gives hope for anti-smoking therapy

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Scientists have discovered that nicotine chomping bacterial enzyme may be crucial in possible anti-smoking therapy.

Kim Janda at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) TSRI said that the research tells that the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic.

The new research offers a possible alternative to current smoking cessation aids, which are shown to fail in at least 80 to 90 percent of smokers. The idea behind an enzyme therapy would be to seek out and destroy nicotine before it reaches the brain–depriving a person of the “reward” of nicotine that can trigger relapse into smoking.

For more than 30 years, Janda and his colleagues have struggled to create such an enzyme in the lab, but they recently ran across a potential enzyme found in nature–NicA2 from the bacteria known as Pseudomonas putida.

The bacterium is like a little Pac-Man, and it goes along and eats nicotine, said Janda.

The next step is to alter the enzyme’s bacterial makeup, which will help mitigate potential immune liabilities and maximize its therapeutic potential, she added.

The study is published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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