22 September 2016

Can nicotine protect the aging brain?

Everyone knows that tobacco products are harmful to health and even newfangled electronic cigarettes can contain harmful toxins. However, researchers from Texas A&M University, working under the guidance of Dr. Ursula Winzer-Serhan, in experiments on mice demonstrated the ability of nicotine to protect the aging brain and even prevent the development of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, which is partly due to its appetite-suppressing effect.

The authors added different doses of nicotine (low, medium and high) to the drinking water of three groups of mice, corresponding to irregular, rare and moderate smoking. The fourth, control group did not receive nicotine at all.

The drug was not registered in the blood of mice of two groups receiving low and medium doses of nicotine. In these groups of animals, the amount of food consumed, body weight and the number of nicotine receptors in the brain also did not change. At the same time, the animals of the group receiving a high dose of nicotine ate less, gained less weight and had more nicotine receptors in the brain. This indicates that in high doses nicotine penetrates into the brain and can influence behavior. However, contrary to scientists' expectations, even in high doses it did not cause disturbing behavioral side effects, such as increased anxiety.

According to Vinzer-Serhan, some people claim that nicotine suppresses anxiety and that is why they smoke, while others say that it increases anxiety. The last thing I would like is for a chronically used drug to cause unpleasant changes in behavior. Fortunately, only two indicators showed certain changes under the influence of a high dose of nicotine, while the drug not only did not increase, but also reduced anxiety in the animal model.

The next stage of the work will be testing potential anti-aging effects on older animal models. Despite the fact that preliminary results suggest that nicotine can prevent weight gain in aging individuals, researchers have not yet determined whether a lower body mass index is accompanied by a lower severity of brain degeneration. It is also unclear whether the effects of nicotine are due only to its ability to suppress appetite, or whether some other mechanisms are also involved.

The authors note that today there are still a lot of unknowns in this matter and that they do not approve of smoking in any way. Even if we do not take into account that the results obtained are preliminary, smoking causes many health problems that cancel out any potential positive effects of nicotine. However, smoking is not the only method of nicotine administration and it is not worth completely writing off this drug. At the same time, Vinzer-Serhan warns that nicotine is addictive and its safety has not yet been proven, therefore, before conducting large-scale clinical trials, people should not use nicotine-containing products for rejuvenation purposes.

Article by Pei-San Huang et al. Evaluation of Chronic Oral Nicotine Treatment in Food Consumption, Body Weight and [125I] Epibatidine Binding in Adult Mice is published in the Journal of Toxicology.

Evgeniya Ryabtseva
Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru based on materials from Texas A&M University: Can nicotine protect the aging brain?


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