Having trouble giving up smoking? Blame your genes

SOME people may have a get-out clause when it comes to giving up smoking. A third of white people who smoke have gene variations that make it harder for them to kick the habit. A gene called ANKK1 regulates the release of dopamine – a chemical involved in the brain’s reward centres. Ming Li at the Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou, China, wondered whether variations of this gene might affect people’s ability to give up cigarettes. So his team analysed 22 studies that have linked ANKK1 to smoking, involving 9487 white participants. The team found that two-thirds of white smokers carried a variation of the gene called A2/A2. These people were 22 per cent more likely to be able to quit smoking than those who carried an alternative version of the gene called A1/A1 or A1/A2 (Translational Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1038/tp.2015.176). People carrying these versions of ANKK1 may need more aggressive strategies to fight their addiction to cigarettes, says Li. The A1/A1 and A1/A2 gene variations have also been linked to obesity and drug addiction, which suggests they may predispose people to addictive behaviours. This article appeared in print under the headline “Can’t kick the habit? Blame your genes” More on these topics:
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