Saturday, August 31, 2013

Nicotiana tabacum

Nicotiana tabacum (Nicotine) C10H14N2

Nicotine is a parasympathomimetic alkaloid found in the nightshade  family of plants. It is a stimulant in mammals and historically it has been used as an insecticide.  The scientific name for tobacco was coined in honor of the French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot de Villemain, who was the first to bring tobacco to Paris from the New World in 1560. In, 1828 nicotine was first isolated from the tobacco plant by Wilhelm Heinrich Posselt and Karl Ludwig Reimann.

The leaves of a tobacco plant are what are smoked, chewed or sniffed.  Tobacco, in addition to nicotine, contains more than 19 chemicals, known together as tar, that are known to cause cancer. Nicotine is a acetylcholine receptor agonist and highly addictive when coadministered with other products found in tobacco. As a parasympathomimetic drug it is known to mimick the parasympathetic nervous system having the following affects: decreases in appetite, boosts mood, increases heart rate, increases blood pressure and stimulates memory and alertness. Smokers can notice withdrawal symptoms as soon as 2-3 hours after use.. These symptoms can include: craving, anxiety, depression, drowsiness, insomnia, nightmares, headaches, increased appetite and problems concentrating.

I chose nicotine as my favorite molecule because I work at the Duke University Center for Smoking Cessation. At the Center we run studies with different types of therapies aimed at the goal of finding the best methods to help people quit smoking. According to the Center for Disease Control, 68.8% of adult smokes in the United States report they want to quit smoking and in 2010, 52.4% of adult smokers (23.7 million people) stopped smoking for more than one day. These statistics demonstrate the seriousness of how difficult it is to quit smoking and the present need for new treatments focusing on things that really work.

If anyone is interested in quitting smoking you can visit to find resources for quitting and also to view our current studies.

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