Chain smokers have a genetic defect

Chain smokers battling in vain to quit may be able to blame it on their miswired brains, scientists revealed yesterday.

The genetic defect makes many of them crave nicotine non-stop, according to researchers who claim to have pinpointed the fault.

It lies in a “sub unit” of a receptor protein that normally squashes the urge for more nicotine when intake reaches a critical level.

Those with the faulty mechanism become hopelessly hooked, US medics found. Dr Christie Fowler, who led lab studies on rats and mice at Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, said, “If the pathway isn’t functioning properly, you simply take more.”

She said the discovery of the dodgy alpha5 sub unit, which was deliberately “knocked out” in rodents, explained why nicotine addiction grips some people more than others.

The animals tested remained frantic for more nicotine no matter how much of the drug they were given. But last night there was hope for smokers.

The researchers have teamed up with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania to develop anti-smoking drugs that boost the alpha5 sub unit signalling.

by Debbie Dot

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