Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have been awarded a $521,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse to evaluate the effect of nicotine vapor exposure on the vulnerability to develop nicotine dependence.
Olivier George, a TSRI assistant professor, will be the primary principal investigator for the two-year study.
“We’ve already identified that passive exposure to nicotine vapor at high levels facilitates acquisition of nicotine self-administration in preclinical models,” George said. "Now the key is to find the minimum level of exposure that produces brain and behavioral changes that may facilitate the acquisition of and relapse to nicotine dependence.”
There has been a rise in vaporizing or “vaping” not only of nicotine, but also alcohol and marijuana, and the researchers are interested in how these new drug delivery devices (e-cigarettes, alcohol vaporizers) may affect the brain and a person’s susceptibility to develop an addiction.
“Virtually no research has been conducted on the consequences of nicotine vapor exposure on the brain and development of nicotine dependence,” George said.
The overall hypothesis of the new study is that chronic exposure to nicotine, even at a low concentrations similar to those received through second-hand smoking and e-cigarette use, will affect the brain and behaviors related to nicotine and increase the vulnerability to nicotine dependence. The results of these studies will reveal the lowest dose of nicotine vapor that increases anxiety-like behavior and hyperalgesia (an increased sensitivity to pain). The researchers also plan to identify the lowest dose of nicotine that increases escalation of nicotine intake and relapse to nicotine dependence.
This grant follows a recent $2.1 million grant (R01-NIAAA) awarded to the George lab to characterize and develop a novel animal model of the voluntary induction and maintenance of alcohol dependence using alcohol vapor self-administration.
The George lab is also collaborating with the laboratory of TSRI Associate Professor Michael Taffe to develop a similar approach to study the effects of marijuana and THC vapor inhalation on the brain and behavior.
The number of the grant is 1R21DA036691.
Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu