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September 10th, 2015:

Nicotine reinforcement demonstrated in study with ‘never-smokers’

In a study with 18 adults who had never smoked, scientists at Johns Hopkins report they have demonstrated one of the earliest steps — nicotine “reinforcement” — in the process of addiction, and shown that some people are far more vulnerable to nicotine addiction than others.

In a summary of the research, published online Sept. 8 in the journal Psychopharmacology, the investigators say they have, for the first time, characterized the body’s reaction to the first, tiniest “hits” of nicotine. The results, they say, should lay groundwork for future revelations about genetic or other biological factors that make people vulnerable to nicotine addiction.

Addiction researcher Roland R. Griffiths, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says,

From an addiction point of view, nicotine is a very unusual drug. When you give people nicotine for the first time, most people don’t like it. It’s different from many other addictive drugs, for which most people say they enjoy the first experience and would try it again. Our results suggest there are definitely some people who are nicotine avoiders and others who are nicotine choosers. There are probably genetic or metabolic vulnerabilities that make people fall into one group or the other.”

Scientists, Griffiths notes, have struggled for decades to understand why, in the face of initial dislike, so many become addicted to cigarettes. Previous research, for example, has shown that a majority of never-smokers given a cigarette or dose of nicotine not only report disliking the effects, but later, when offered a nicotine -containing pill, gum or candy, or a placebo — a classic test of the “reinforcement” abilities of an addictive drug — they chose the placebo.

Similarly, even in laboratory mice and rats, nicotine usually fails the reinforcement test, with animals choosing a placebo over nicotine.

In a novel effort to get at the root of the puzzle, Griffiths and his team set out to explore the conditions under which nicotine’s reinforcement properties first take hold in never-smokers.

Rather than use a dose of nicotine similar to that in a cigarette or in a nicotine patch or gum — doses that can overwhelm first-time users — his team turned to doses around 10 times lower, barely above what is needed for someone to notice nicotine’s effects, such as relaxation, jitters, better focus, energy or changes in mood.

Then the researchers designed a double-blind study in which volunteers wouldn’t know whether they were getting nicotine or a placebo.

Dr Griffiths said:

We attempted to develop conditions in which people could learn to become familiar with the subtle mood-altering effects of very low doses of nicotine, with the goal of uncovering the reinforcing effects of nicotine.”

For the study, Griffiths and his team recruited 18 healthy men and women who had never smoked — or only ever smoked a handful of cigarettes — and gave each of them two identical-looking pills labeled A and B each day for several weeks. The volunteers were told the pills might contain any of a number of substances, ranging from caffeine or sugar, to ginseng, chamomile, theobromine, kava or nicotine.

In fact, each day, each volunteer was given one very-low-dose nicotine pill, starting at 1.5 milligrams of nicotine per 70 kilograms of body weight, and one placebo, with at least two hours between the pills.

The order of the pills was mixed across days. Volunteers were asked to report their symptoms — relaxation, changes in energy levels, concentration, light-headedness, drowsiness and jitters — after each pill.

Then, on at least 10 successive days, they were given the same pills again, this time unlabeled, and asked to identify which pill was A and which was B. If the volunteer was unable to reliably distinguish between mystery pill A and mystery pill B, the dose of nicotine was increased slightly.

Once each volunteer could reliably distinguish between pill A and B, they were given a choice of taking either pill and asked to explain their decision. Some people thought the placebo contained a drug —one that made them drowsy, for instance — so they weren’t necessarily choosing one they thought didn’t cause symptoms.

Nine of the 18 participants reliably chose the nicotine pill, citing improved concentration, alertness, stimulation, energy and better mood. The other half, however, chose the placebo, often explaining that the nicotine pill — although they didn’t know it contained nicotine — made them feel light-headed, dizzy or sick.

Griffiths believes this is the first study to conclusively show that nicotine can pass the reinforcement test in never-users, and he expects it will inform future studies of “avoiders” and “choosers.” Ultimately, he says:

I hope our findings will point the way toward future interventions that prevent or treat nicotine addiction, a topic of increasing importance in light of the expanding marketing of electronic nicotine delivery devices — e-cigarettes — to youthful nicotine nonusers.”

Scientists say smokers who suffer stroke in the insular cortex of brain could quit habit

New reports published in the journals Addiction and Addictive Behaviors have revealed that active smokers who suffer stroke in the insular cortex part of their brains are more likely to quit smoking without much problems than others who suffered the same incident in other parts of their brains. These set of people are also likely to suffer lesser withdrawal symptoms than others of their kinds.

Although the rate of smoking has remained largely flat within the last decade, health authorities still maintain it contributes to at least one of five deaths in the US, and increases the risks of developing cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and cancer among others.

The problem that most smokers have with quitting is because of the addictive properties of nicotine which has taken over their system, making quitting almost impossible. Products with nicotine have a very high relapse rate, and success at quitting is only 30% after six months.

Researchers from the University of Rochester revealed the most effective way to treat nicotine addiction is to target the part of the brain affected by it, instead of interfering with dopamine functions to block their pathway. But then there are other treatment options like nicotine replacement therapies such as gums, patches, and other things that reduce craving for tobacco.

According to the recent study, the two main indicators of smoking cessation is measuring the severity of nicotine cravings during hospitalization from stroke, and the chances of patients returning to smoking after discharge from hospital for smoke treatment.

Meanwhile, 156 participants were involved in this study. They were all active smokers who happened to be stroke patients and then admitted to three different hospitals in Rochester, New York. Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scan to identify the part of the brain affected by nicotine addiction; 38 of the patients suffered strokes in their insular cortex and 118 patients suffered stroke in other parts of their brains.

Three months after the tests, patients self-reported back to the researchers and it was discovered that about 70% that suffered stroke in their insular cortex quit smoking , while only 37% of those that suffered it in other parts of their brain stopped smoking.

“It is clear that something is going on in this part of the brain that is influencing addiction,” one of the study authors said.

Electronic Cigarettes’ impact on lungs tested–326521041.html

Electronic cigarettes were designed overseas as a tool to help smokers kick the habit. US health experts say these days E-Cigs, as they’re called, are more often in the hands of teens. In fact, the Center for Disease Control said E-Cigarette use is way up. Thirteen percent of all high school students use them now, as compared to just four percent in 2013.

There’s plenty of scientific evidence about the dangers of smoking tobacco but nothing conclusive about E-Cigarette aerosol or vaping. Professor of Medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Matthias Salathe, MD said, “Instead of tobacco, now you’re inhaling this fluid with nicotine.”

Researchers at the University of Miami are using a smoking robot to test the impact vaping may have on the airways to the lungs.

Inside his high-tech lab, specially designed E-Cigarettes are put to the test. The robot is designed to take one puff every minute. The vapor goes into a tube, it’s diluted with air and then blown over cells from the lining of a human airway.

Dr. Salathe told Ivanhoe, “Some preliminary data that we have suggests there are changes occurring.”

Researchers are also using this set-up, without the nicotine additive, to test lung cells exposed to just the vapor. It’s formed by heating two liquids: propylene glycol, an organic liquid with a sweet taste, and glycerine, a substance found in cooking oil.

“Just because these fluids are safe to put on your skin or to drink them, they’re not necessarily safe to inhale into the lungs,” explained Dr. Salathe.

This researcher, and his robot, may soon have a clear picture.

Dr. Salathe says the contents of E-Cigarettes are varied, because unlike other nicotine products, E-Cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA. Data from the study could be used to determine whether the cigarettes should be regulated.

Bioscience company re-imagining tobacco for new age with machine

Danville’s Tyton BioEnergy Systems unveiled its new cutting-edge extractor for its tobacco-based green chemicals and agricultural products Thursday.

“We have built a world-class machine that can take the tobacco that we have engineered and break it down into sugars, oils, proteins and a by-product called biochar,” Tyton President and Co-founder Peter Majeranowski said at Thursday’s celebration.

Several patents went into the pilot-scale machine that uses water and pressure to process 12 tons of tobacco plants a day. Tyton’s process makes use of the other entire plant: the juice and the cake — or soft interior product. The final products include tobacco oil used as an animal feed additive, biodiesel and biochar also called green coal that can help replenish crop fields.

“This machine is by far better than anything that’s out there right now because it uses water as its active ingredient. It’s a very clean process. It’s a fast process and it’s a continuous process and there’s no waste,” Majeranowski said.

The multiple patents approved and awaiting approval behind the approximately $750,000 machine were created with the help of Old Dominion University. The university’s Sandeep Kumar, an expert in biofuels, assisted the 12-employee company in the process.

This pilot program will be an opportunity for the team to continue research and development. This version of the machine has a range of pressures and temperatures to experiment for the optimal parameters. The final version of the machine would likely be about 10 times bigger than the current pilot size.

Majeranowski estimated that Tyton is another year to two years away from finally bringing its product to the market. Revenue estimates or expectations are not available at this time, but there are identified industries and companies interested in Tyton’s work. Among those parties is Smithfield Foods, which sees potential in using the Tyton product as animal feed.

“Tobacco is the most widely grown non-food crop in the world. It grows in over 125 countries. It’s very adaptable to different climates. It also can grow places where traditional grow crops cannot,” he said. “We view the tobacco plant almost like a mini factory.”

Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore attended the milestone event. He explained that Tyton and other bioscience companies were re-imagining tobacco for the new age. On Wednesday Gov. Terry McAuliffe encouraged universities, organizations and businesses at his Agriculture and Industrial Biotechnology Conference to join in laying the groundwork for this economic evolution.

“The country was founded on leaf tobacco — the Jamestown settlement. Some of the first exports back to mother England were leaf tobacco. Our Founding Fathers grew it. It was used as currency. All the things that have gone on over the course of the 200-plus years today and tobacco is still profitable,” Haymore said.

He added that while tobacco is still a participating player in the economic development competition to make Virginia move from the number two agriculture state to the top state, it is with a changing purpose from the traditional smoking use.

“Traditional leaf tobacco is still an important part of the economy but now we’re going to be looking at future uses, new uses of tobacco,” Haymore said.

Ralph Hogg, the director of the Dan River Business Development Center incubator where Tyton is located, expressed satisfaction at seeing the company excel.

“What they have done since they’ve been here and through some collaboration and work they have taken that concept and grown it exponentially. They’ve come up with more uses for the tobacco than just energy,” Hogg said.

“They delivered on everything they intended to deliver on and more.”

Hogg added that he is especially excited for the upcoming commercialization of the product because of what it will mean for the local farming community. Getting farmers back in the fields and planting tobacco could result in anywhere from 300 to 600 people returning to work, he estimated.

Tyton came to the center in 2012. Typically companies have a three-year lease at the center with hopes that the company will graduate into its own facility. There is a special provision to allow a company to stay for five years.

In Tyton’s case, the company has been allowed to stay two more years. While Majeranowski hopes to stay as long as possible in some capacity whether in pilot production or just research and development, Hogg stated decisions would be made by the board.

Holyrood urged to limit engagement with tobacco firms

LEADING health professionals and charities have urged Holyrood to limit engagement with the tobacco industry after a senior representative gave evidence to MSPs.

A public petition has been lodged calling on Scottish Parliament authorities to ensure politicians and staff adhere to international guidelines for interaction with tobacco companies.

It follows the appearance of Charlie Cunningham-Reid, the UK head of corporate affairs and communications for Japan Tobacco International (JTI), at Tuesday’s meeting of the health committee.

He was giving evidence on proposed Scottish Government legislation that would introduce restrictions on the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes as JTI owns the E-Lites electronic cigarette company.

But he also commented on another aspect of the Bill that would make it an offence to smoke in parts of hospital grounds, as did the company’s written submission to the committee.

Campaigners point out that the UK is bound by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international health treaty set up by the World Health Organisation.

Parties to the convention are required to protect their public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.

The petition states: “For a senior tobacco industry representative to give evidence to a Parliamentary committee on a submission which claims to not relate to smoking raises serious concerns over the Framework Convention obligations regarding transparency, and the witness did take the opportunity to comment on smoke-free hospital grounds proposals.

“We believe that no guidance regarding the committee’s obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was provided to the Health and Sport Committee members and would question how the members and clerks can operate within the obligations of the convention without good information as to what is required of them.”

The petition accepts that “materials originating with tobacco companies can and will still form a legitimate part of scrutiny and debate” at Holyrood but calls for “parameters and checks” to ensure compliance with international treaties, and better guidance for staff.

Signatories include Professor Derek Bell, president of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh, Dr Peter Bennie, chair of the British Medical Association Scotland, Dr Alastair Cook, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, and Sheila Duffy, chief executive of anti-smoking charity Ash Scotland.

Ms Duffy said: “The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is there because there is fundamental conflict between tobacco industry profits and the health and well-being of their customers.

“For years tobacco companies have tried to protect their interests by opposing health policies and this is why they have been singled out for restrictions.

“We know that the tobacco industry seeks to influence political action on health, as shown by the millions it recently threw at opposing plain packaging for tobacco products.

“MSPs and Parliament staff need to know about this history, and the limits placed on engaging with the tobacco industry.”

Responding to the petition, Mr Cunningham-Reid said: “In addition to our written submission, JTI was invited to attend the Scottish Health and Sport Committee’s meeting to consider the Scottish Health Bill.

“The comments by Ash Scotland are unhelpful and deliberately confusing, as the FCTC and specifically Article 5.3 does not ban or exclude the tobacco manufacturers from the regulatory process but encourages any interaction to be open and transparent.

“This is something we support fully and what could be more open and transparent than a broadcast live debate in the Scottish Parliament building.”

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “A petition from Ash Scotland has been received and will be considered by the Public Petitions Committee in due course.

“During the course of their scrutiny, committees of the Scottish Parliament gather a diverse range of views in order to inform their work.

“All views expressed are considered by committees and their purpose is to inform MSPs in reaching their own conclusion on an inquiry or on proposed legislation.”

Public Health England and e-cigarettes: confusion or collusion?

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