Today during Bio Psych class we were discussing synapses and how drugs affect receptors. Professor Ratliff-Crain mentioned that nicotine helps to clear the brain and produce clearer thinking. Then he said that smoking is actually linked to reduced Alzheimer's. After hearing that I knew I had to look into it. It was surprisingly easy to find an article that supported his claim.
This article from Science Daily describes how researchers have found that the Alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor is a good target for beginning research on preventing or treating Alzheimer's. It has been rumored that smokers are less likely to develop Alzheimer's than non-smokers; this is what Dr. Hey-Kyoung Lee and her team based their research off of.
First they started by looking at what they thought caused Alzheimer's: an enzyme called BACE1 which produces A-beta. However, knocking out BACE1 altogether caused mice to become confused and aggressive. So they looked on.That is where Alpha7 comes into play. They found that when this receptor is stimulated, the mice are returned normal brain function (the BACE1 knockout mice, that is). This receptor is stimulated with nicotine. Since no doctor wants to prescribe their patients cigarettes, however, more research will need to be conducted and a drug produced in order for this to go to the market.
I am hopeful, though, that by the time I have to worry about dementia and Alzheimer's a cure will have been found and I can live a peaceful life on my porch. Just sitting in my rocking chair and remembering the good times.