Smoking is bad for you; this is not a new revelation. From increasing your chances of developing lung cancer to putting you at risk for emphysema later in life, the consequences of smoking seem never-ending. But in case you needed yet another reason to kick the habit, a new study may have it for you. According to the research, nicotine activates certain white blood cells, called neutrophils, which in turn release molecules that lead to increased inflammation.

Although previously suspected, this newly found link between nicotine and inflammation reveals how smoking is related to the immune system. Through the activation of neutrophil white blood cells, nicotine directly causes an increase in inflammation in the body. This discovery may also open the door for new and improved therapies to treat tobacco-related illnesses.  

"Because of the direct link between nicotine itself and inflammation, this study has important implications including that alternative forms of nicotine inhalation, such as vaping that lacks other chemicals from cigarette smoke, may nonetheless still have detrimental immunological effects," explained E. John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, the journal where the study was published, in a recent statement.

In order to make this discovery, the team stimulated isolated neutrophil cells from humans and mice with nicotine in order to measure the amount of inflammation this exposure produced.

Inflammation is part of the body’s natural response to a perceived attack. However, an unnecessary increase in our body’s inflammation response can actually promote disease rather than prevent it, The Daily Mail reported. This is because inflammation plays a role in many illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, and some autoimmune disorders. It’s not exactly the invading pathogen that makes us feel ill, but rather the body’s attempts to fight against it which produces disease “symptoms” that make us feel poorly.  The bigger the inflammatory response of the body, the more symptoms of illness you will experience, and in turn the more sick you will physically feel.

Source: Hosseinzadeh A, Thompson PR, Segal BH, Urban F. Nicotine induces neutrophil extracellular traps. Journal of Leukocyte Biology . 2016

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