That means that any drug developed to control weight via nicotinic receptors would have to be very targeted, otherwise it could have effects on other parts of the body, including memory, blood pressure and heart beat, explained Winzer-Serhan.
Cytisine, which Mineur says is already used in some Eastern European countries as a smoking-cessation aid, is fairly selective, targeting receptors in the peripheral nervous system.
In the meantime, the current findings should not be used to encourage smoking as a weight-loss tool, given the habit's deadly effects.
Certain nicotine-based, smoking-cessation techniques, such as patches, could potentially limit weight gain, Mineur says, but smoking is not the way to go.
Mineur also pointed out that there are many other factors associated with post-smoking weight gain, such as munching on candy because you miss the cigarette.
"The idea of there being a therapeutic use of nicotine agonists is . . . a great idea," said Tank. "[But] this is a very complicated set of physiologies and nicotine is an extraordinarily complicated drug."
For help on quitting smoking, head to the American Lung Association.
SOURCES: Yann Mineur, Ph.D., associate research scientist in psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; William Tank, Ph.D., professor and chair, pharmacology and physiology, University of Rochester Medical Center; Ursula Winzer-Serhan, Ph.D., associate professor, neuroscience and experimental therapeutics, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, Bryan; June 10, 2011, Science
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