A Medical Device Daily

Results of a new genetic study bring scientists one step closer to understanding why some smokers become addicted to nicotine, the primary reinforcing component of tobacco.

The research, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health , represents evidence to date of genetic risk factors for tobacco addiction. The study not only completed the first scan of the human genome to identify genes not previously associated with nicotine dependence (or addiction), it also focused on genetic variants in previously suspected gene families.

The research results appeared Dec. 1 in the online issue of the Journal of Human Molecular Genetics.

“This genome-wide association scan is an important step in a large-scale genetic examination of nicotine addiction,” said Elias Zerhouni, MD, director of the NIH. “As more genomic variations are discovered that are associated with substance abuse, including smoking, we will be better able to understand how to prevent and treat human addictive disorders.”

Smoking behaviors, including the onset of smoking, smoking persistence, and nicotine addiction, appear to cluster in families. Studies of twins indicate this clustering partly reflects genetic factors. To identify those genes that could potentially contribute to nicotine dependence scientists combined a comprehensive genome-wide scan with a more traditional approach that focuses on a limited number of candidate genes, using unrelated nicotine-dependent smokers as cases and unrelated non-dependent smokers as controls.

A candidate gene has one or more variant forms, which, according to current scientific evidence, appear to be linked to a genetic disease.

“When two teenage friends experiment with smoking at the same age, one can become addicted and the other might not,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIDA. “This systematic survey of the genome coupled with the ongoing identification of variants in candidate genes brings us closer to understanding what factors increase a person’s risk of transitioning from experimentation to nicotine addiction.”

“The hope is that continued identification of these genes that are associated with risk of addiction will not only help us predict who is more likely to become addicted but will also help identify who will respond best to specific cessation therapies,” said study leader Laura Jean Bierut, of Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis).

“New technologies related to the study of the human genome have helped us collect new information related to nicotine addiction,” said Volkow. “We must now determine how to translate these findings into approaches that will reduce smoking related disease and death.”

PARI’s eFlow in NIAID study

PARI (Monterey, California) reported that The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, is conducting research using the company’s eFlow electronic nebulizer to study aerosol delivery of vaccines to the mucosa.

This study evaluates immunogenicity of aerosolized adenovirus- and DNA-based vaccines delivered to the lungs to protect from HIV/AIDS and other viral diseases.

“We are very excited about the potential of vaccines delivered by PARI’s eFlow. Since eFlow is such an effective and efficient delivery platform, many new drugs and vaccines can potentially be delivered via inhalation with very short treatment times and without a needle,” said Martin Knoch, managing director of PARI.

The research team uses a non-human primate model in vaccine testing, the best model available for measuring immune response before transitioning to clinical trials in humans.

The proof-of-concept study of aerosol delivery of vaccines delivered with the adenovirus is being conducted at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center (Bethesda, Maryland).