Is There a "Quit Smoking" Gene?
“Quitting cigarettes is easy. I’ve done it a dozen times.”
If this old line applies to your failed attempts to give up smoking, it might be more than a lack of will power that’s holding you back.
A new study from Zhejiang University School of Medicine in China finds that people with a particular version of a gene involved in the brain’s reward system are more likely to be able to quit smoking.
The researchers analyzed data from 23 studies published between 1994 and 2014.
The gene in question is known as ANKK1. It happens to be right next to the DRD2 gene, which helps the brain recognize dopamine, the chemical that’s produced in the brain to reinforce useful behaviors, such as eating and having sex. Addictive drugs, including nicotine, also cause dopamine levels to spike.
Benefits of this genetic variant could be confirmed only for people of Caucasian descent. Smokers with East Asian ancestry were just as likely to quit – or not – if they had the gene. The study didn’t have enough data on black or Latino smokers to say whether the gene variant had any effect on their ability to quit smoking.
The findings may help researchers develop “quit smoking” drugs that could be tailored to people based on their DNA.
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