Magazine article Science News

Nicotine Spurs Vessel Growth, Maybe Cancer

Magazine article Science News

Nicotine Spurs Vessel Growth, Maybe Cancer

Article excerpt

More than 4,000 chemicals make up cigarette smoke, and many of them can damage a person's health. But the bete noire of the lot is nicotine, a compound that is simultaneously pleasure-inducing, addictive, and--at high doses--poisonous. A new study adds another trait: Nicotine in mice has spawned the growth of new blood vessels and thus promoted cancer.

Blood vessel formation, or angiogenesis, can play a positive or negative role in health. Some researchers are inducing angiogenesis in heart-disease patients to help them rebuild damaged heart muscle (SN: 2/28/98, p. 132). Meanwhile, scientists fighting cancer are trying to thwart angiogenesis and thus the flow of oxygen and nourishment to tumors.

In the new study, the researchers had assumed that nicotine would impair angiogenesis. "We went into this study with the wrong hypothesis," says John P. Cooke, a cardiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine. To his surprise, laboratory cultures of human blood vessels grew well when exposed to nicotine in moderate doses. Nicotine also cut the rate of programmed cell death in those cultures.

Intrigued, Cooke and his colleagues began testing the effects of nicotine in mice. For one experiment, they implanted human-lung cancer tissues in the animals. They then gave some mice drinking water laced with nicotine in doses mirroring the amounts ingested by cigarette smokers.

The mice getting nicotine experienced more rapid tumor growth than did mice that were not given nicotine, the researchers report in the July NATURE MEDICINE. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.