Does nicotine help fight COVID-19? The science behind a novel hypothesis
Researchers in France have put forward a hypothesis that the presence of nicotine actually equips the body to fight COVID-19.
- The researchers’ hypothesis is based on the combination of two different but complementary scientific approaches.
- At the centre of the nicotine hypothesis is a receptor that responds to nicotine as well as a chemical called acetylcholine. Hence its name: “nicotinic acetylcholine receptor”, abbreviated as nAChR.
- nAChR is found in parts of the nervous system, muscle and certain tissues of organisms including humans. Nicotine is known to bind with the nAChR receptor.
- According to the hypothesis, If nicotine is present on the receptor, and the novel coronavirus arrives, then the nicotine would block the interaction.
- The nicotine hypothesis involves the nAChR receptor, when SARS-CoV2’s main interactions are with a different receptor: ACE2.
- A study last month, in fact, looked at the expression of ACE2 among smokers and non-smokers.
- People who have smoked showed a 25% increase in ACE2 expression as compared to non-smokers, researchers reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
- They suggested that smoking increases entry points for the novel coronavirus.