Smoking helps you think straight
CTRI wins patent for using tobacco as medicine

The Hindu
February 17, 2008

New Delhi: Tobacco will now be used for manufacturing cancer and cardiac drugs with the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) bagging the patent for 'solanesol' -- a medicinal substance extracted from tobacco.

Solanesol, a white crystalline powder derived from tobacco's green leaf, has curative effects against cardiac insufficiency, muscular dystrophy, anaemia, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and liver injury. "Many pharmaceutical companies have approached us for carrying out clinical trials for the usage of solanesol as anti-cancer and anti-diabetic drugs," CTRI Director V Krishna Murthy told PTI.

Solanesol is rich in Coenzyme Q10 -- a physiologically active substance with high pharmaceutical value. "Solanesol has excellent prospects in future as drug and CTRI would soon distribute the rights for production of drugs in the market," Murthy said. A letter granting the patent for solanesol was received by CTRI in October last year from Controller of Patents.

The project of deriving solanesol from tobacco was a collaborative programme between CTRI and Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow. CTRI used chewing tobacco variety Abirmani grown in Tamil Nadu and HDBRG tobacco cultivated in black soils of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh for extracting solanesol

Pooled Analysis of Tobacco Use and Risk of Parkinson Disease

Beate Ritz, MD, PhD; Alberto Ascherio, MD, DrPH; Harvey Checkoway, PhD; Karen S. Marder, MD, MPH; Lorene M. Nelson, PhD; Walter A. Rocca, MD, MPH; G. Webster Ross, MD; Daniel Strickland, PhD; Stephen K. Van Den Eeden, PhD; Jay Gorell, MD
Arch Neurol. 2007;64:990-997.

Context Epidemiologic studies have reported that cigarette smoking is inversely associated with Parkinson disease (PD). However, questions remain regarding the effect of age at smoking onset, time since quitting, and race/ethnicity that have not been addressed due to sample size constraints. This comprehensive assessment of the apparent reduced risk of PD associated with smoking may provide important leads for treatment and prevention.

Objective To determine whether race/ethnicity, sex, education, age at diagnosis, and type of tobacco modify the observed effects of smoking on PD.

Design, Setting, and Participants We conducted the first ever pooled analysis of PD combining individual-level data from 8 US case-control and 3 cohort studies (Nurses' Health Study, Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, and Honolulu-Asia Aging Study) conducted between 1960 and 2004. Case-control studies provided data for 2328 PD cases and 4113 controls matched by age, sex, and ethnicity; cohort studies contributed 488 cases and 4880 controls selected from age- and sex-matched risk sets.

Main Outcome Measure Incident PD.

Results We confirmed inverse associations between PD and smoking and found these to be generally stronger in current compared with former smokers; the associations were stronger in cohort than in case-control studies. We observed inverse trends with pack-years smoked at every age at onset except the very elderly (>75 years of age), and the reduction of risk lessened with years since quitting smoking. The risk reductions we observed for white and Asian patients were not seen in Hispanic and African American patients. We also found an inverse association both for smoking cigars and/or pipes and for chewing tobacco in male subjects.

Conclusions Our data support a dose-dependent reduction of PD risk associated with cigarette smoking and potentially with other types of tobacco use. Importantly, effects seemed not to be influenced by sex or education. Differences observed by race and age at diagnosis warrant further study.

Author Affiliations: Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health, Los Angeles (Dr Ritz); Department of Neurology, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine, Los Angeles (Dr Ritz); Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts (Dr Ascherio); Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle (Dr Checkoway); Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, Taub Institute, and Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York (Dr Marder); Division of Epidemiology, Department of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California (Dr Nelson); Division of Epidemiology, Department of Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota (Dr Rocca); Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System, Pacific Health Research Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii (Dr Ross); Research and Evaluation, Kaiser Permanente, Southern California, Pasadena (Dr Strickland); Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, California (Dr Van Den Eeden); and Department of Neurology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan (Dr Gorell).

Coffee Lovers, Smokers at Lower Parkinson's Risk

HealthDay News
April 9, 2007

Family study supports a link, although reasons behind it remain unclear

Could smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee protect you from Parkinson's disease?

That's the startling suggestion of a new U.S. study of families that also found NSAID use has no impact on the disease risk.

Previous studies have reported that consuming caffeine, smoking and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen may help prevent Parkinson's disease, according to background information in the study. But there's been little family-based research done to examine these links.

The new study, led by researcher Dana B. Hancock of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., included 356 Parkinson's patients (averaging about 66 years of age) and 317 of their family members (averaging almost 64 years of age).

The people with Parkinson's disease were 44 percent less likely to report ever smoking and 70 percent less likely to report current smoking compared with unaffected relatives, the study authors found.

"Increasing intensity of coffee drinking was inversely associated with Parkinson's disease," they added. "Increasing dosage and intensity of total caffeine consumption were also inversely associated, with high dosage presenting a significant inverse association with Parkinson's disease."

The study found no link between NSAID use and Parkinson's disease.

The findings are published in the April issue of the journal Archives of Neurology.

It's not known how smoking or caffeine consumption may help reduce the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

"Given the complexity of Parkinson's disease, these environmental factors likely do not exert their effects in isolation, thus highlighting the importance of gene-environment interactions in determining Parkinson's disease susceptibility," the study authors wrote. "Smoking and caffeine possibly modify genetic effects in families with Parkinson's disease and should be considered as effect modifiers in candidate gene studies for Parkinson's disease."

Genetically modified tobacco plants helped slash the cost of vital inflammation research

October 25, 2006
John Miner, Health Reporter
The London Free Press

Holy smokes, a good use for tobacco

London scientists have succeeded in using genetically engineered tobacco plants to treat inflammatory bowel disease, a breakthrough that holds out hope of a new treatment for the debilitating disease.

"It is a milestone," Anthony Jevnikar, chief scientific officer of London-based Plantigen Inc., said Oct. 24.

The London scientists, a team that combined medical and agricultural researchers, modified tobacco plants to produce the human protein interleukin-10, known to reduce inflammation in humans.

Fed to mice with an inflammatory disease, interleukin-10 reduced the severity of the inflammation and improved the health of the mice.
"I'd be very surprised if this did not have a similar effect in people," said Jevnikar, who is also director of kidney transplantation at London Health Sciences Centre.

Inflammatory bowel disease includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease which affect more than one million people in North America, including 100,000 Canadians.

The research results were published in Plant Biotechnology Journal by the research team which included scientists from Agriculture Canada, the Lawson Health Research Institute, and Plantigen, a discovery company spun off from Lawson.

Federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl said the research was an exciting breakthrough that shows great promise.

By using tobacco plants engineered to produce the protein, the scientists were able to slash the production costs.

If usual pharmaceutical fermentation techniques had been used, the costs of the study on mice would have been hundreds of thousands of dollars a week, Jevnikar said. "It would have been simply unaffordable."

Researchers hope to use genetically engineered plants to produce other pharmaceuticals at much lower costs than currently possible.
"We are on the verge of this," said Jevnikar.

"London is most definitely a world leader in all of this."

Plantigen is also working on a preventive treatment produced in genetically engineered plants for Type 1 diabetes.

The tobacco plant was used in the research because there is almost no chance the genetically engineered variety could spread to other plants.
As an added precaution, all of the tobacco plants with interleukin-10 were grown indoors, and a mutant tobacco variety was used that doesn't produce any seeds.

Parkinson's disease: Nicotine has some positive effect

Boca Raton News
by John Johnston
September 6, 2006

The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act was designed to make Americans more aware of the adverse health effects of smoking. As enacted in 1965, the law required health warnings only on cigarette packages. In 1984, the law was amended to require that one of the four warning labels listed below appear in a specific format on cigarette packages and in most related advertising:
Surgeon general's warning: smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy.

Surgeon general's warning: quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health.

Surgeon general's warning: smoking by pregnant women may result in fetal injury, premature birth, and low birth weight.

Surgeon general's warning: Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide.
And of course, the warnings we've all heard from parents, public health officials and just about everyone else is: "if you don't smoke, don't' start, and if you do smoke, stop.

Sound advice a vast majority would agree.

New research suggests, however, that nicotine treatment protects against the same type of brain damage that occurs in Parkinson's disease.

Experimental animals receiving chronic administration of nicotine over a period of six months had 25 percent less Parkinson's type damage than those not receiving nicotine.

This protective effect may explain the lower incidence of Parkinson's disease among smokers. Researchers say the results also suggest that nicotine may be useful as a potential therapy in the treatment of early-stage Parkinson's patients.

Researchers at The Parkinson's Institute, an independent, non-profit research institute located in Sunnyvale, California, conducted the five-year study.

Why smoking may have a health benefit

August 10, 2006

Scientists have uncovered a gene that helps protect smokers from Parkinson's disease.

The medical world recently discovered that cigarette smoke decreases the risk of getting the degenerative neurological condition - but the genes responsible were a mystery.

US geneticist Professor Jeffrey Vance, from Duke University in North Carolina, has told the International Congress of Human Genetics in Brisbane he has found a gene that helps explain the link.

The gene - known as NOS2A - is found in every cell of the body and is responsible for the production of nitric oxide.

If too much is produced brain cells can die, leading to neuro-degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Prof Vance and his team realised that while everyone has this gene, in smokers it appeared to be "turned down", limiting cell death and ultimately disease.

"We think that something in smoke keeps the level of the NOS2A down so cells don't produce nitric oxide, which decreases cell damage," he told AAP.

The researcher was not sure why this was but said the team would look closer at this area of DNA to try to better understand the link.

"It really is ironic that something good might ultimately come out of smoking," Prof Vance said.

"It is definitely a window of opportunity that we are working on."

But the main focus on his project was on further understanding Parkinson's disease, which affects about 40,000 Australians, most aged over 60.

The cause is unknown and while there are treatments available including surgery and medication to replace the missing chemical dopamine, these have a limited effect.

"The other problem is that these things are not curing anything, only treating the symptoms while the process is still going on," Prof Vance said.

His team is now using this genetic information to try and find a way to slow down Parkinson's disease, or even prevent it.

"I'd like to be able to identify people that are at a high risk of Parkinson's disease so we can provide them information to change their lifestyle or give them a drug to stop them getting it," the scientist said.

In China, cigarettes are a kind of miracle drug

Globe & Mail
The state-owned tobacco monopoly sells about a third of the world's smokes, writes Geoffrey York
June 11, 2005

Guiyang, China -- Here's some exciting medical news from the Chinese government: Smoking is great for your health.

Cigarettes, according to China's tobacco authorities, are an excellent way to prevent ulcers.

They also reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease, relieve schizophrenia, boost your brain cells, speed up your thinking, improve your reactions and increase your working efficiency.

And all those warnings about lung cancer? Nonsense.

You're more likely to get cancer from cooking smoke than from your cigarette habit.

Welcome to the bizarre parallel universe of China's state-owned tobacco monopoly, the world's most successful cigarette-marketing agency.

With annual sales of 1.8 trillion cigarettes, the Chinese monopoly is responsible for almost one-third of all cigarettes smoked on the planet today.

If you believe the official website of the tobacco monopoly, cigarettes are a kind of miracle drug: solving your health problems, helping your lifestyle, strengthening the equality of women, and even eliminating loneliness and depression.

"Smoking removes your troubles and worries," says a 37-year-old female magazine editor, quoted approvingly on the website. "Holding a cigarette is like having a walking stick in your hand, giving you support.

"Quitting smoking would bring you misery, shortening your life."

Such statements are widely believed in China.

Two-thirds of Chinese men are smokers, and surveys show that as many as 90 per cent believe their habit has little effect on their health, or is good for them.

Even in China's medical community, 60 per cent of male doctors are smokers. Few are aware of the studies forecasting that cigarettes will soon be responsible for one-third of all premature deaths among Chinese men.

Little wonder that Western tobacco companies are hungrily circling the Chinese market, lobbying eagerly for entry into this lucrative market of 360 million smokers, the biggest market in the world.

So far, 99 per cent of the market is controlled by the Chinese monopoly, but Western tobacco companies are convinced they will soon crack it, especially now that China is a member of the World Trade Organization and is obliged to reduce its tariffs on foreign cigarettes.

For the anti-smoking movement, China is the ultimate challenge. Nonetheless, this week, a group of Canadian experts arrived in southwestern China in a bid to convince Chinese smokers that cigarettes might not be quite as beneficial as they believe.

They distributed anti-smoking posters, visited cancer patients, showed the graphic warnings on Canadian cigarette packs, and lectured on how the anti-smoking campaign has reduced Canada's lung-cancer rate. But they admitted that they face an uphill struggle in a country where the tobacco industry provides 60 million jobs and 10 per cent of national tax revenue.

"The magnitude of the problem is overwhelming," said Jean Couture, a Quebec surgeon who has been travelling to China since 1990 to work on cancer-education programs.

"In China today, the economy comes first and everything else is secondary, including health care," Dr. Couture said. "You wonder if anyone in the government is conscious of how great the smoking problem is. There's no public education program. The Chinese anti-smoking association is very weak and has almost no money. Within 20 years, China could have the majority of all smoking deaths in the world."

Chinese doctors have called Dr. Couture a "second Norman Bethune" -- a reference to the Canadian surgeon who became a Chinese hero after dying while giving care to Chinese Communist soldiers in 1939. The Quebec doctor, who has helped create an 80-bed cancer unit at a hospital in northeastern China, is now leading an anti-smoking campaign in four Chinese provinces.

When the Canadians arrived this week in Guizhou province in southwestern China, they were worried about the power of the local tobacco industry. The province is filled with tobacco farms and cigarette factories. As they distributed posters at a hospital in one of Guizhou's biggest cities yesterday, the Canadians saw a number of people smoking in the hospital. A hospital shop was openly selling cigarettes.

"The tobacco industry is so huge and the anti-tobacco movement is so weak," said Mark Rowswell, a Canadian television personality and Chinese celebrity (under the name Da Shan), who helps promote the anti-smoking campaign. "What we're doing is just a drop in the ocean."

While smoking rates have fallen sharply in Canada in the past two decades, the rate in China is still rising.

"Ten years ago, when we first came to China, it was unheard of for young women to smoke," said Nicole Magnan, executive director of the Quebec division of the Canadian Cancer Society, who was in the Canadian delegation this week. "Now there are more and more of them."

While China has proclaimed that the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be a smoke-free Olympics, it has done little to discourage smoking. The number of Chinese smokers is growing by three million a year, despite an estimated 1.3 million tobacco-related deaths annually.

Chinese cigarettes are cheap -- as little as 30 cents a pack -- and the health warnings are hidden in small print on the sides of the packages. Though cigarette advertising is technically illegal, tobacco companies are allowed to promote their corporate names. When sprinter Liu Xiang won a gold medal for China at the Athens Olympics last summer, he promptly went out and filmed a television commercial for China's biggest cigarette company.

Children can easily buy cigarettes at Chinese shops, despite an official ban on sales to those under the age of 18. "Shop owners never refuse to sell us cigarettes," said one 16-year-old boy who was smoking as he played pool near a Guizhou school this week.

"They only care about money."

Che Chuangao, a construction worker, started smoking when he was 20. "More than 90 per cent of my friends smoked, so I couldn't be different," he said. "And it's helpful for my work. Offering a cigarette is a social greeting, whenever you meet a friend or a stranger. I know that smoking isn't good. Once I stopped smoking for a month or two. But my friends persuaded me to smoke again."

While their task is daunting, the Canadians are scoring some small successes. After listening to a speech by the Canadians this week, 27-year-old medical student Li Dongbo said he was inspired to work on anti-smoking projects.

The student's uncle, who had smoked for 30 years, died of lung cancer in February. To spare his feelings, his family had never told him the truth about his illness.

"I was shocked," Mr. Li said. "The government should be doing more. We need promotion campaigns to tell people about it."

Holy smoke! Chinese city turns cigarettes to medicine

March, 2006

Beijing - A city in China, a country that's home to the world's most enthusiastic smokers, is crushing fake cigarettes to make medicine, Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.

The northwestern city of Xian is using the counterfeit cigarettes to extract solanesol, a compound found in tobacco which is used to treat cardiovascular disease, it said.

"We used to incinerate the fake cigarettes, which is wasteful and causes air pollution," Xinhua quoted Zhou Yaqing, vice director of the provincial tobacco monopoly, as saying.

A kilo of solanesol is worth about $200, and 30 tons of tobacco leaf can produce up to 120 kilos, Xinhua added.

China is the world's largest cigarette producer, with a growing market of about 320 million. Chinese cigarettes are also among the cheapest in the world -- a packet can cost as little as 8 U.S. cents -- and smoking kills 1.2 million people a year in China, according to the World Health Organization.

Fake cigarettes, made of poor quality tobacco and often topped up with wood chips, are commonly sold on Chinese streets.