PET reveals the effect of smoking on peripheral organs

June 23, 2003

Researchers who recently found reduced levels of monoamine oxidase B (MAO B) in the brains of smokers using positron emission tomography (PET) scans now provide compelling evidence that MAO in peripheral organs - the kidneys, heart lungs and spleen - is also affected. This crucial enzyme breaks down neurotransmitters, and too much or too little MAO B can adversely affect health and even personality.

"Since smoking exposes the entire body to the tobacco compounds that inhibit MAO B, we believed it had the potential to limit MAO B activity throughout the body - and the evidence backs our supposition," said Joanna Fowler, one of the study's authors.

Dr. Fowler and her colleagues in the Medical and Chemistry Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY and the Psychiatry and Applied Mathematics Departments at the State University of New York in Stony Brook, NY developed a tracer method to determine whether smokers have reduced MAO B activity in their peripheral organs. Their findings were presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine's 50th Annual Meeting.

The study involved giving 7 smokers PET scans with the MAO B-specific binding radiotracers [11C]L-deprenyl and [11C]L-deprenyl-D2, with results compared to those from a group of 8 non-smokers. The study found that MAO B activity in the heart, lungs, kidneys, and spleen was significantly reduced in smokers relative to non-smokers. Reductions ranged from 33 to 46%. "The consequences of these reduced MAO-B levels," declared Fowler, "need to be examined in greater detail, but at the very least it is clear that smokers' peripheral organs are significantly impacted by their habit."

Society of Nuclear Medicine

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