Friday, February 06, 2009

Nicotine-Free Cigarettes On The Way, Are You Sure?

Smoking is bad for the health of smokers as well as non-smokers through second-hand smoke. Besides cancers, nicotine contained in cigarettes can cause heart disease, stroke and many other diseases.

Recently, Japanese researchers had identified a gene that transports nicotine through tobacco plants, which could help manufacture cigarettes free of carcinogen. Carcinogen is a substance or agent that can cause cancer or increase its propagation.

In a joint study by Kyoto University's Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere and Ghent University of Belgium, the experts found the gene Nt-JAT1 transports nicotine to vacuoles, or bags accumulating water and other substances in the cells of tobacco leaves. In their experiments, they confirmed that yeast with Nt-JAT1 carry nicotine. They published the results in the online version of the Proceedings of National Academy of Science in January 2009.

Tobacco plants were already known to produce nicotine in their roots and carry it to their leaves. The new finding makes it possible for the cigarette manufacturers to produce tobacco free from nicotine in the leaves.

This would not only help smokers stem nicotine addiction without the use of anti-smoking goods, but also benefit non-smokers as tobacco smoke is free from nicotine. Besides tobacco industry, such discovery could also be used for medical and agricultural purposes.

No one can actually predict whether cigarettes with little or no nicotine would well be accepted by the smokers, but the researchers argued that the gene could also transport compounds, which can be used as medicine.

It has been known that nicotine is part of a group of compounds known as alkaloids. In fact, some alkaloids extracted from plants are employed for fighting cancer. This new discovery could be used to make plants build up higher levels of useful alkaloids.

It is believed that other genes could be involved in carrying nicotine through tobacco plants, but the research on these genes has yet to be completed.

No comments:

Post a Comment