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NIDA. (2008, April 3). NIDA Researchers Identify Genetic Variant Linked to Nicotine Addiction and Lung Cancer. Retrieved from

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April 03, 2008

Cover of Nature journal

Scientists have identified a genetic variant that not only makes smokers more susceptible to nicotine addiction but also increases their risk of developing two smoking-related diseases, lung cancer and peripheral arterial disease. The variant is closely linked to two of the known subunits of nicotine receptors, the sites on the surface of many cells in the brain and body that can be bound by nicotine. When nicotine attaches to these receptors in the brain, there are changes in cell activity that results in its addictive effects.

The study, published in the April 3, 2008 issue of the journal Nature, highlights the advances that are being made in genetics research, which can now identify many gene variants that increase the risk of complex bio-behavioral disorders. Carriers of this genetic variant are more likely than noncarriers to be heavy smokers, dependent on nicotine, and less likely to quit smoking. While the variant does not increase the likelihood that a person will start smoking, but it does it increase the likelihood of addiction for those who do smoke. The study was carried out by deCODE Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company based in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The same variant was identified as one that increased risk for lung cancer in two articles appearing in the April 3rd, 2008, issues of Nature and Nature Genetics, and partially funded by two other NIH institutes - the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Collected here are the major findings, discussion, press coverage and ancillary research for this important finding: