New research has found a direct link between tobacco use and brain damage, Science Daily reported on June 23.
Researchers led by Debapriya Ghosh and Anirban Basu of the Indian National Brain Research Center (NBRC) said that the compound NNK, found in tobacco, incites white blood cells in the central nervous system to attack healthy cells, leading to severe brain damage.
The research focused primarily on the NNK compound that is found in all forms of tobacco. NNK is a chemical substance that becomes carcinogenic during the body’s metabolic process.
In their tests, the Indian researchers found that NNK provoked an errant response from microglia, immune cells in the brain that normally attack damaged or unhealthy cells.
“This research sheds light on the processes that lead to nerve-cell damage in those who smoke cigarettes or consume tobacco products on a regular basis,” said Ghosh.
Researchers believe the neuroinflammation caused by NNK may lead to disorders like multiple sclerosis.
The findings will be published in the July 2009 issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry.