Researchers get $9 million grant to study nico tine

by Craig Gustafson

University researchers received a $9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study nicotine levels in the bloodstreams of cigarette smokers.
The NIH grant will fund research at the University for the next five years and will support four separate projects to help cigarette smokers kick the habit.
The grants came from the National Cancer Institute and National Institute on Drug Abuse, divisions of the NIH. The NCI and NIDA will spend more than $70 million, divided among several institutions.
The University and six other schools were chosen from a field of 30 institutions.
Together the research facilities will create a consortium called the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center.
“It’s now clear that a large number of people cannot stop smoking,” said Stephen Hecht, a University cancer researcher. “Our goal is to reduce the amount a person smokes.”
A recent NCI study showed that 80 percent of smokers cannot or will not quit.
If someone can’t quit, then the goal should be to reduce the amount of cigarettes smoked, Hecht said.
Reducing nicotine levels in people, he explained, is one of the first steps toward cutting down on smoking-related health risks.
According to the NCI, tobacco-related diseases cause more than 450,000 deaths each year, including 170,000 cancer deaths.
A 1997 Center for Disease Control study revealed that nearly 30 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in Minnesota smoke.
And a 1998 Boynton Health Service survey revealed that about 36 percent of University students used tobacco-related products.
Alan Leshner, director of the NIDA, said nicotine addiction is such a complex subject that a wide-ranging approach is needed to understand addiction in young people.
To address the multiple facets of cigarette addiction, each of the seven participating universities has a unique research objective.
The goal of the University is to treat smokers who have been resistant to conventional methods of intervention or who have not been previously targeted.
Dorothy Hatsukami, a University professor of psychiatry, will lead researchers on the four projects to meet that goal.
The projects include:
ù examining different techniques to reduce smoking such as nicotine patches;
ù focusing on nicotine levels of individuals with heart disease;
ù reducing tobacco smoke in children, specifically secondhand smoke; and
ù finding new nicotine replacement therapies in animal studies.

Craig Gustafson covers the Medical School and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3233.