We’ve got used to being told by scientists that how much damage nicotine could do to our health. But this group of scientists from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences would tell you something unheard of.
In their study published in journal Nature Communications, they cast the notorious nicotine in a different light, something we might find hard to wrap our mind around.
The scientists split 48 healthy young mice into two groups: the experimental group and the control group. Every day, the experimental group quenched their thirst with water infused with a dose of 2mg of nicotine per milliliter, while the control group remained untouched.
The study unfolded over a year, and as it drew to a close, the control group of mice (equivalent to 50-year-old humans) exhibited signs of aging, such as white fur, slow movements, and poor response time. In contrast, the experimental group of mice remained in a state of middle-age, brimming with vitality and energy.
Further probing uncovered a fascinating revelation: the telomeres in the experimental group’s muscle and heart tissues were significantly longer than those of the control group. The longer the telomeres, the younger the physiological age. This finding goes a long way in explaining the stark contrast in the external aging between the two groups of mice.
Moreover, the scientists observed that the survival rate of the experimental group of mice in their later years was as high as 91.67%, while the control group had a measly 54.17% survival rate. This implies that nicotine intervention curtailed the death rate of mice by nearly 40%.
To investigate further, the scientists found that low doses of nicotine could breathe new life into aging male mice by enhancing the activity of a special enzyme – NAMPT, which leads to the increase of NAD+, a molecule that helps cells generate energy and repair DNA damage. This exciting breakthrough offers a tantalizing glimpse into the possibility of using nicotine to activate NAD+ salvage pathways and improve age-related symptoms.
Not only that, but the study also found that nicotine could inhibit glucose hypermetabolism (a condition where the body’s glucose metabolism is abnormally high) in aging male mice, which in turn helped to ameliorate cellular energy metabolism disorders.
To investigate the effect of nicotine on NAMPT activity in different tissues of aging mice, the scientists examined the brain, heart, liver, muscle, and kidney at 2, 6, and 12 months of age. What they discovered was a gradual decrease in NAMPT activity as mice grew older. However, after administering nicotine through drinking water (at a dose of 2 μg/mL) from 6 to 12 months of age, the researchers found that nicotine was able to restore NAMPT activity in all tissues.
But that’s not all. The study also found that nicotine had a significant impact on the acetylation levels of NAMPT, with the most significant deacetylation effect taking place in the heart. Acetylation is a chemical process that can modify proteins/enzymes and affect their function. In the case of NAMPT, acetylation occurs when an acetyl group is added to the enzyme, which can alter its activity. Therefore, by deacetylation, that is removing the acetyl groups, nicotine can restore NAMPT ‘s original activity.
While the study’s findings are undoubtedly exciting, it’s important to remember that the research was conducted on mice and that further studies will be needed to determine whether similar effects can be seen in humans. Additionally, the researchers have cautioned against the use of nicotine as a means of improving health outcomes, as smoking and nicotine addiction can lead to a range of serious health problems.