Genes and Smoking- Are the Two Related?

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Many people might have tried to quit the habit of smoking, both successfully as well as unsuccessfully. Not many amongst them knew why they were able to quit smoking or vice a versa. Till recently, there was nothing certain or visible that could be pointed out as the reason for either being able or unable to quit smoking. But, recent findings by geneticists have pointed out that probably our genetic-makeup had something to do with the result of our attempts at quitting smoking.

According to the findings of Dr George R. Uhl, (Head of Molecular Neurobiology Research at the US National Institute on Drug Abuse), genetic variations across human population was responsible for found in those who had attempted to quit smoking.

Dr Uhl's findings, published in the June issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, claim that though there was no single, isolated gene whose variations were related to the habit of smoking, there were a number of genes who could have together played a more than the usual role in determining individual capability to quit smoking.

A group of 550 individuals who wanted to quit smoking formed the study-group of this research. They were randomly administered either of three smoking-cessation methods- Zyban (an antidepressant); a placebo; or nicotine replacement therapy- and results of the method employed were collected.

The results obtained indicated some interesting observation. Those who were able to successfully quit smoking with the use of Zyban showed presence of 26 genes common amongst them. Further, those who had taken to nicotine replacement therapy showed a commonality of 41 genes amongst their gene sequence.

However, Dr Uhl himself played down the findings of the study, claiming that the presence of the specific genes might not be sufficient alone to help smokers get rid of their smoking habits. The reason to do so was that it was still not scientifically clear as to how the genes contributed in the eradication of the problem.

Despite this lack of information on contribution of these genes, Dr Uhl said that the available information could be used to make existing smoking-cessation programmes a little more effective. By looking at the genetic make up of the individual, the type of medication to be administered could be determined. Chances of success for such tailor-made programs would then become high.

However, there are some skeptics who claim that the idea is still far into the future. Amongst these skeptics is Dr Norman H. Edelman. He is scientific consultant to the American Lung Association. According to him, such ability to make a distinction between smokers may be of some eventual importance but the moment of being able to use them in clinics is not going to come so soon.