Nursing researchers study genetic risks for nicotine dependence

by Vicky Cerino, UNMC public relations | December 18, 2012

College of Nursing researchers want to see if smokers armed with personal genetic information about their propensity for nicotine addiction will be more or less likely to kick the habit.

In a study led by Julia Houfek, Ph.D., a professor in the College of Nursing, investigators will let participants know if they have certain genetic qualities that make them more prone to nicotine addiction. Researchers will then investigate how this knowledge affects the smokers and their attitudes toward their habits.

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Would knowing they are genetically prone to nicotine addiction help motivate smokers to quit? College of Nursing researchers want to know.
"We know that smoking cessation treatments are not a one-size fits all solution," Dr. Houfek said. "It's estimated about 40 to 70 percent of smoking behavior is influenced by genes. We are harnessing this new technology that enables the identification of specific genes that influence someone to take up the habit and continue smoking."

Information from the study -- which is supported by a $40,000 grant from Nebraska's tobacco-settlement funds -- could potentially help tailor smoking cessation programs to individual smokers.

"Even with cessation treatment guidelines, there's little guidance to best match smokers with the most effective medication and behavioral therapy," Dr. Houfek said. "Currently the recommendations are based on personal preference or availability. By knowing how the variations in DNA affect smokers' responses to the medications, we will be better able to match them with the best treatment."

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