Smoking linked to brain damage, say Indian researchers

June 24th, 2009 - 1:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 24 (IANS) There is a direct link between smoking and brain damage, according to new research conducted by Debapriya Ghosh and Dr. Anirban Basu from the Indian National Brain Research Centre (NBRC).
Ghosh and Basu have discovered that a compound in tobacco provokes white blood cells in the central nervous system to attack healthy cells, leading to acute neurological damage.

Their research focuses on a compound known as NNK, which is commonly found in tobacco. NNK is a procarinogen, a chemical substance which becomes carcinogenic when it is altered by the metabolic process of the body.

Their study reveals that “NNK provokes an exaggerated response from the brain’s immune cells, known as microglia. Microglia cells act as ‘destroyers’ for the brain by attacking damaged or unhealthy cells. However, when provoked by NNK these cells start to attack healthy brain cells rather than unhealthy cells they are supposed to attack.”

Basu said: ” Our findings prove that tobacco compound NNK can activate microglia significantly which subsequently harms the nerve cells.”

The study also added that NNK is present in all forms of tobacco and, therefore, it can also enter the body through chewing. The research also suggests that second hand smoking may lead to the same neuroinflammation conditions.

“This research sheds light on the processes that lead to nerve cell damage in those who smoke cigarettes or consume tobacco products on a regular basis,” said Ghosh.

These findings will be published in the July issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry.

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