During a recent study, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute or TSRI have explored a bacterial enzyme, which can be a perfect drug candidate for helping people quit smoking. According to the said study, it is possible to recreate the enzyme in laboratory settings. Researchers are saying that the enzyme boasts multiple promising features that make it a perfect component for drug development.

Ely R. Callaway Jr. Professor of chemistry Kim Janda, who also happens to be a member of TSRI’s Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, informed that the research conducted by him and his colleagues is currently in the initial phase of the drug development process. However, he added that some findings of the study have already proved that the enzyme contains the right features for eventually becoming a candidate for anti-smoking drug therapy.

This new research has provided us with a potential alternative to the smoking cessation aids in use currently. Here, it must be noted that the smoking cessation aids used currently are found to be failing in case of at least 80-90% smokers.

An enzyme therapy designed for helping people quit smoking will work by destroying nicotine before it reaches one’s brain. This will prevent the smoker from getting access to nicotine, the “reward” of smoking. The therapy will help smokers reduce the frequency of smoking and then eventually quit the habit altogether.

Janda and his co-researchers have been struggling for creating the enzyme in laboratory settings for over 30 years. However, recently they came across an enzyme with similar features. It’s a naturally occurring enzyme called NicA2. The enzyme is produced by the bacteria called Pseudomonas putida.

The researchers have come to know that NicA2 is a bacterium isolated from tobacco field soil. It requires nitrogen and carbon for staying alive and thus consumes nicotine, a rich source of both those components.

Must Read: TSRI discovers Nicotine-eating bacteria might be used to make Anti-smoking Drug

During this new study, researchers at the TSRI analyzed the features of the bacterial enzyme boasting the ability of eating up nicotine. The enzyme’s ability of helping people quit smoking also got tested.

In a test involving rodents, the enzyme was found to reduce nicotine’s half-life to just 9 to 15 minutes from 2 to 3 hours. Janda said that a higher dose and a few modifications might allow the enzyme to reduce nicotine’s half-life even further.