One of the habits that is most likely to produce future negative health effects is smoking. This lifestyle choice could lead to illness later in a person's life, even if they are not genetically predisposed to certain conditions.
While physicians have worked exhaustively to educate the public as to the dangers of smoking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still estimates that one in five Americans smoke.
This is why Ronald Crystal and his team of researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College are optimistic about a new gene therapy treatment that could protect the brain from nicotine, which is the primary addictive chemical contained in cigarettes.
Researchers are hopeful that by insulating the brain from its effects through antibodies, smokers will be able to more easily quit. Crystal's team created a vaccine with a synthetically engineered genetic sequence, which is then injected into the liver. The necessary antibodies are then able to replicate themselves.
This process has proved to be more effective than prior attempts at using a vaccine to help suppress nicotine, which relied on using a virus to trigger a response by the immune system. The gene therapy treatment is likely to be more long-term, and therefore more effective.
"The antibody is floating around like Pac-Man in the blood. If you give the nicotine and the anti-nicotine gobbles it up, it doesn't reach the brain," said Crystal, who anticipates this technique will replace ineffective cessation techniques. "[Right now] we don't have very effective therapies. The problem is even with the drugs we have now, 70 percent of people go back to smoking within six months of trying to quit."
Personalized medicine is often tasked with informing individuals of conditions toward which they are predisposed, so they can alter their behaviors as necessary. This genetic therapy technique, if implemented on a wider scale by diagnostic laboratories, would modify the harmful behaviors of smokers in an even more direct way.
This article is brought to you by Slone Partners, a leading laboratory recruitment firm in the emerging sciences of molecular, clinical, and in-vitro diagnostics, anatomic pathology and personalized medicine.
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