Ha Chen, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology, and Robert W. Williams, PhD, a professor and chair in the Department of Generics, Genomics and Informatics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), have been awarded over $3.14 million in funding to establish an innovative, diverse research model, which will be used to define and test the mechanisms that contribute to the addiction-enhancing effects of the chemical menthol.
Robert W. Williams, PhD
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 40 million adults in the United States still smoke cigarettes, and roughly 4.7 million middle and high school students use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes. Research shows approximately 25 percent of smokers prefer mentholated cigarettes, and clinical studies have shown that menthol facilitates initiation, enhances dependence, and makes quitting more difficult.
"We have found that cigarettes with a menthol additive lead users to a higher nicotine intake," said Dr. Chen. "To understand why, we have developed a diverse research model that mimics the genetic differences of humans. Our work is of particular importance for the African American population as data shows they predominantly smoke mentholated cigarettes over all other types."
With strong preliminary data, the pair hopes their new model will help them learn more about the relationship between menthol and nicotine, and its links to human nicotine addiction.