Nicotine, a potent alkaloid found in plants of the nightshade family, is a crucial component of tobacco. As an addictive organic compound capable of creating dependency, repeated use of nicotine can trigger over 20 diseases, even leading to death. The severity of nicotine's impact on humans is staggering, approaching that of illicit drugs. Despite the legal prevalence of cigarettes, the harm caused by nicotine surpasses that of many drugs. Quitting smoking is undoubtedly the most effective way to prolong life, but the intense addictive nature of nicotine and its withdrawal symptoms make quitting immensely challenging.
Take, for example, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a global health threat. Nicotine, metabolized primarily by the liver, competes with the organ's natural metabolic processes during prolonged smoking, disrupting fat metabolism and leading to the accumulation of fat in the liver.
However, in the face of the threats posed by nicotine in our lives, there are solutions. Researchers have discovered NicX in the human gut microbiota, a substance capable of degrading nicotine. NicX offers protective effects on the liver, mitigating damage among smokers and alleviating the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Mouse experiments have shown that degrading nicotine can reduce withdrawal symptoms in these animals. This implies that using NicX to degrade nicotine could potentially serve as a viable method for smoking cessation.