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Role of Alpha6 Nicotinic Receptors in Smoking
To support more effective cessation treatments, SRI researchers are exploring how nicotinic receptors affect brain activity in response to smoking.
Tobacco dependence is associated with major health problems worldwide, including respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Understanding what the addictive component in tobacco is will lead to addiction prevention.
Current studies suggest that tobacco contains more than 4,000 chemicals; of those, nicotine is the most likely addictive component. Understanding the changes nicotine causes in the brain is important, because this may allow for the development of smoking cessation therapies directly targeted to the molecular steps that are modified with smoking.
Nicotine acts on a few receptor molecules in the brain. One known to be involved in addiction is the alpha4 nicotinic receptor. Recent work has indicated the importance in addiction of the alpha6 nicotinic receptor, as well. Development of new drugs directed to alpha6 receptors may be important for smoking cessation therapies. More needs to be discovered about these receptors and how they interact with alpha4 receptors.
SRI researchers are exploring how alpha6 nicotinic receptors affect brain activity in response to smoking. Such knowledge may lead to more effective treatment strategies for smoking cessation using drugs that interrupt the process at the level of the receptor, allowing individuals under treatment to overcome tobacco dependence.