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Gene breakthrough 'to pave way for nicotine-free cigarettes'

world Updated: Jan 22, 2009 02:38 IST

Smokers trying to gradually kick the butt can effectively do so, thanks to scientists who have made a gene-related breakthrough, which they claim, could soon pave the way for nicotine-free cigarettes.

A team at Kyoto University has identified the Nt-JAT1 gene, which transports nicotine, a drug present in cigarettes that eventually leads to addiction, from the roots of tobacco plants to their leaves.

According to the researchers, creating a nicotine-free cigarette that tastes of tobacco, but does no damage to human health is their next aim.

Lead researcher Prof Kazufumi Yazaki told The Daily Telegraph: "We will proceed now with experiments to raise tobacco plants that have no nicotine in their leaves, although there may still be some problems to overcome.

"For example, we may find that blocking the transfer leads to accumulation of the nicotine in the root cells and that could prove toxic to the plant itself."

According to Prof Yazaki, the breakthrough will be of particular assistance for people who are trying to quit fags.

"It has been pointed out that people smoke for the nicotine, but there are a lot of people who want to quit and have tried to stop, but say they miss the sensation of having a cigarette in their mouth.

"There are people who will smoke regardless of whether the cigarette contains nicotine or not," he said.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle the researchers face is funding to continue their research. "This is very important to human health, so I should start talking to Japan Tobacco. May be they will finance my studies," Prof Yazaki said.