The UEM study is the first in Spain to analyze the genes involved in smoking addiction
The study "Smoking genes: why do we smoke?", conducted by researchers at the Center of Excellence for Research in Health and Life Sciences at Universidad Europea de Madrid in collaboration with the Pneumology Unit, Gregorio Marañón General University Hospital, has revealed that genetic factors influence both whether people smoke or not (after having tried tobacco), and the quantity of cigarettes consumed by smokers. This research, which analyzed 17 genetic variants involved in nicotine addiction in the population and has been recently published in PLoS ONE, has identified a number of genes that contribute mainly to increased consumption of tobacco products.
"To understand the variability in smoking, we studied the genes that influence the response to nicotine, such as metabolizing enzymes, as well as the impact that addictive smoking behavior has on the neurotransmitter pathways of the brain"said Felix Gomez-Gallego, UEM Professor and principal researcher for the study. It has been shown that "individuals that metabolize nicotine more rapidly experience more pleasant and less unpleasant effects from smoking for the first time, which increases their risk of becoming regular smokers" he adds.
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide. Currently, the mortality rate of smokers is three times that of nonsmokers, and between 30% and 35% of smokers die before the age of 65.
Given these figures and the fact that studies show that genetic factors contribute to approximately 50% of the success of smoking cessation treatment, understanding the relationships between genetic polymorphisms and smoking will develop more targeted treatments based on genetic smoker profiles and new drugs that could reduce death from smoking related diseases.