Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Secondhand Smoke

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Secondhand Smoke

Article excerpt

A team of scientists at the University of California, Riverside, has found that even secondhand tobacco smoke exposure can result in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a common disease and rising cause of chronic liver injury in which fat accumulates in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. The researchers found fat accumulated in liver cells of mice exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke for a year in the lab. Such fat buildup is a sign of NAFLD, leading eventually to liver dysfunction.

In their study, the researchers focused on two key regulators of lipid (fat) metabolism that are found in many human cells as well: sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP) that stimulates synthesis of fatty acids in the liver, and adenosine monophosphate kinase (AMPK) that turns SREBP on and off. They found that secondhand smoke exposure inhibits AMPK activity, which, in turn, causes an increase in activity of SREBP. When SREBP is more active, more fatty acids get synthesized. The result is NAFLD induced by secondhand smoke.

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"Our study provides compelling experimental evidence in support of tobacco smoke exposure playing a major role in NAFLD development," says Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology, who led the study. "Our work points to SREBP and AMPK as new molecular targets for drug therapy that can reverse NAFLD development resulting from secondhand smoke. …

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