Hard Time Quitting Tobacco? Look to Your Genes
New genetic testing may help smokers learn how to quit their tobacco addiction. Many kinds of addictive behavior, including smoking and alcohol use, can be partly blamed on a person's genetic makeup. A new study by Laura Jean Bierut and Li-Shiun Chen of the Washington University School of Medicine suggests that the allelic variations which contribute to addiction could also help determine the best route of therapy.
In their study, two groups of roughly 6,000 combined smokers were examined for genetic variations. The researchers found that certain alleles in known addiction-genes were positively correlated with heavy tobacco use. These same variations also seemed to greatly predict the success of medication-based addiction therapies such as nicotine supplements or buproprion.
The researchers downplayed their discovery, calling it a "corner piece" of a larger puzzle, but this finding suggests that personalized anti-smoking regimens could be available in the near future. Addiction is a complex disorder and no single allele, gene, or environmental factor is completely responsible, but findings such as this move us towards both a greater understanding and more efficient therapies.
Tobacco use currently contributes to about one out of every five deaths in the United States.