Researchers identified specific genes and microRNA that play an essential role in how the roundworms develop nicotine dependence and their withdrawal responses. Caenorhabditis elegans roundworms get hooked on nicotine just like humans. Researcher Shawn Xu focused on in the genetic coding process and discovered that a series of genes were involved in a process that ultimately increased the production of the nicotine receptor proteins, with microRNAs. MicroRNAs are a class of small RNA molecules that help fine-tune gene expression. Xu hope to inspire other scientists to reexamine the role of these microRNAs in nicotine dependence in mammals, and ultimately lead to a better understanding of what causes the dependence.
I found this article interesting because smoking is a well known topic of interest when it impacts a person’s health. Nicotine is not a particularly hard substance to give up given it leaves your system very quickly. What makes it difficult to give up is the belief that it is , is a powerful drug. Society, media, certain products set up for this massive battle and have convinced people that it’s difficult. This article also made me question how scientist would manipulate the gene that increases these receptors. Would it only apply to parents who are constant smokers? Would they manipulate the gene before birth or find a way to increase the production of the nicotine receptor proteins with microRNAs after birth?