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Why Some Can’t Kick The Butt

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Mark Twain‘s claimed unsuccessful attempts to quit smoking a hundred times over might be explained not through lack of will, but proteins in the brain.
Blame it on brain

A genetic study of 14,000 people in Europe and the US has shown that variations in segments of two proteins that serve as gateways for nicotine entry into brain cells can predict the risk of addiction.

The study by US and Canadian scientists has shown that people with specific gene sequence coding for these proteins are more likely to be addicted to nicotine than people whose sequences are subtly different.

The two proteins called alpha-3 and alpha-5 form sites on brain cells which are activated during the process of addiction. The findings were published today in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

“Pharmaceutical companies can now study these targets and develop new drugs that could help people quit (smoking),” Wade Berrettini, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and lead investigator in the study, told The Telegraph.

Existing anti-nicotine medications are not always effective.

Previous studies from Australia, North America, Scandinavia and China had indicated that the tendency for habitual heavy smoking — up to 20 cigarettes a day — was influenced by the genetic makeup.

Researchers have estimated that two-thirds of the risk of heavy smoking is genetic — believed to be a combination of several genes, each of which contributes to a small amount of the risk.

In the new study, the American-Canadian team found that variations in alpha-3 and alpha-5 could be used to predict the number of cigarettes per day during the period of heaviest smoking.

Existing medications, including nicotine replacement patches, are effective only for a few months in heavy smokers. “We could also use the genetic variations of alpha-3 and alpha-5 to determine whether they can predict the ability of people to quit using existing drugs,” Berrettini said.

The findings also raise the possibility — although there is no evidence for this yet — that people with certain variations in the alpha-3 and alpha-5 genes might find it easier to quit smoking than others.

“This could be confirmed through analysis of genetic variations between people who have quit successfully and those who repeatedly return to nicotine after trying to quit,” Berrittini said.

Public health specialists believe that many people around the world, aware of the health risks of tobacco, are trying to quit but are unable to do so. They’re in the league of the American writer Mark Twain who is said to have once quipped: “Quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it a hundred times.”

Sources:The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

News on Health & Science

Disciplined Life Cuts Alzheimer’s Risk

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CHICAGO: People who lead a good clean life – those who are conscientious, self-disciplined and scrupulous – appear to be less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, US researchers said .

The finding is the latest from a long-running study of nearly 1,000 Catholic nuns, priests and brothers by Robert Wilson of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The study appeared in the Archives of General Psychiatry .

Wilson and colleagues defined conscientiousness in the study as people who control their impulses and are goal-directed. These people are often considered dependable. People in Wilson’s study did not have dementia when the study started in 1994.

The researchers asked the volunteers to rank themselves on a five-point scale according to a 12-item inventory, with questions such as “I am a productive person who always gets the job done.” From this, they derived a conscientiousness score, based on a scale of 0 to 48. The average score was 34.

They were also given various medical and neurological exams, including cognitive testing. Follow-up tests were done each year through 2006. A total of 176 people developed Alzheimer’s disease during the study.

People who were highly conscientious – those in the 90th percentile with scores of 40 or higher, had an 89% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those who ranked in the 10th percentile.

Source:The Times Of India