A number of studies have suggested that nicotine may have beneficial effects in Alzheimers disease (1), but nicotine is not so beneficial in the lung. Small airway obstruction with viscous mucus is correlated with lung decline in COPD patients, and nicotine is known to promote mucus hypersecretion (2). In a recent study in AJP Lung by Chen et al. (http://ajplung.physiology.org/content/early/2014/05/14/ajplung.00396.2012), the authors suggest that nicotine does more than that. They show that nicotine directly interacts with the mucins and affects their hydration properties and leads to higher mucus viscosity as monitored by multiple particle tracking techniques. The study is important because poor hydration of mucins is closely correlated with increased bacterial infections and lung function decline in COPD patients (3) and supports the view that even second-hand cigarette smoke has harmful effects.
1. Baldinger SL, and Schroeder DJ. Nicotine Therapy in Patients with Alzheimers-Disease. Ann Pharmacother 29: 314-315, 1995.
2. Lang M, Hummer B, and Hahn HL. Effect of systemic nicotine on mucus secretion from tracheal submucosal glands and on cardiovascular, pulmonary, and hematologic variables. Klinische Wochenschrift 66 Suppl 11: 170-179, 1988.
3. Vestbo J, Prescott E, and Lange P. Association of chronic mucus hypersecretion with FEV1 decline and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease morbidity. Copenhagen City Heart Study Group. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine 153: 1530-1535, 1996.
The following articles on this topic were published in AJP-Lung during the last two years:
Chen EY, Sun A, Chen CS, Mintz AJ, Chin WC.
Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2014 May 16. pii: ajplung.00396.2012. [Epub ahead of print]
Rehan VK, Liu J, Sakurai R, Torday JS.
Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2013 Oct 1;305(7):L501-7. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00078.2013. Epub 2013 Aug 2.PMID:23911437
Takemura Y, Helms MN, Eaton AF, Self J, Ramosevac S, Jain L, Bao HF, Eaton DC.
Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2013 Mar 15;304(6):L428-37. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00129.2012. Epub 2013 Jan 4.
Zou W, Zou Y, Zhao Z, Li B, Ran P.
Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2013 Feb 15;304(4):L199-209. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00094.2012. Epub 2012 Nov 30.
Fu XW, Rekow SS, Spindel ER.
Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2012 Oct 15;303(8):L661-8. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00075.2012. Epub 2012 Aug 24.PMID: 22923641