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Dementia Advocacy Group To Spend Millions On Nicotine Therapy Research

Dementia Advocacy Group To Spend Millions On Nicotine Therapy Research

Dementia Advocacy Group To Spend Millions On Nicotine Therapy Research

A new study is looking into whether nicotine therapy helps to slow the onset of memory-reducing diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s. Researchers are hoping to find further evidence that nicotine therapy can combat memory loss in patients with diseases that affect long-term memory and slow the onset of diseases with short-term memory loss.

The study will be led by Dr. Paul Newhouse of the Center for Cognitive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and funded by The National Institute on Aging. It will focus on transdermal nicotine patches, also known as “the patch,” and will cost $9.4 million, according to a press release by Vanderbilt University.

However, many medical professionals are considering vaping products as another potential delivery method for nicotine therapy. Depending on the outcome of the study, this could be another positive clinical study as an argument for nicotine via vaping.

Details of the Study


The clinical trial will take place over six months and involve about 300 older adults who suffer from mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Current statistics indicate that approximately 75 percent of patients with MCI will eventually develop either dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

This large and expensive study builds on a previous study by Dr. Newhouse from 2012, which looked at the the effects of the nicotine patch on 74 nonsmokers with memory impairments. In that study it was found that after six months, patients who wore the nicotine patch regained 46 percent of their age-adjusted "normal performance" on long-term memory tests, whereas patients in the placebo group worsened by 26 percent.

Like the 2012 study, participants involved in the project will be asked to wear nicotine transdermal patches for 16 hours a day, but a percentage of those participants will be prescribed placebos, meaning patients will have no idea who is using the real thing, and they will only be allowed to remove the patch during periods of sleep.

Meanwhile, the scientific team will be monitoring brain functions and structure through conventional MRI technologies, and computer cognition testing will take place every six months.

"We believe that many if not most of the patients, if untreated, will go on to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease or something similar," Dr. Newhouse said to the Tennessean in November 2017. "What we'd like to do with this treatment is see if we can both improve memory loss and prolong the period in which they are functioning well."


Nicotine, a natural plant alkaloid, is a “fascinating drug with interesting properties,” Newhouse said. “People think of it as a potentially noxious substance, but it’s a plant-derived medication just like a lot of other medications.”

Nicotine binds to specific receptors in the brain that are important for thinking and memory and may have neuroprotective effects. People with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-losing diseases are known to lose some of those receptors.