Quitting smoking might be down to genes, researchers find

Group at Zhejiang University of Hangzhu in China identify gene that may be linked to quitting

Development of nicotine dependence is associated with the release of the brain-signalling chemical dopamine, which is also associated with the “reward system” in the brain that drives addiction and pleasure. File photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Development of nicotine dependence is associated with the release of the brain-signalling chemical dopamine, which is also associated with the “reward system” in the brain that drives addiction and pleasure. File photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

 

January will see the usual round of exhortations to quit smoking, but new research suggests success in kicking the habit may in part depend on your genes.

A group led by Yunlong Ma and colleagues at Zhejiang University of Hangzhu, China, have identified a particular gene that may be associated with quitting smoking.

Their work, published on Tuesday in the Nature Group journal Translational Psychiatry, combines the data from 22 studies involving 9,487 Caucasian people.

They found a gene of interest that comes in several forms, and people with one form are more likely to be able to stop than those with the other forms.

The development of nicotine dependence is associated with the release of the brain-signalling chemical dopamine, which is also associated with the “reward system” in the brain that drives addiction and pleasure.

Dopamine release

For this reason, the researchers targeted a gene, Taq1A, because this gene is involved in dopamine release.

A number of smaller studies examined this link but were “controversial”, the authors say.

Their larger study hoped to find something more definitive and they now believe they can show the gene variant is “significantly associated with smoking cessation”.

Even so, the researchers say their results should be “interpreted with caution due to certain limitations”, for example the person’s use of drugs that might affect the Taq1A association with smoking.