A UK company has launched a new DNA test that it claims can help smokers kick the habit, by tailoring treatment to their genetic make-up. The 'NicoTest', developed by Oxford University-based firm G-Nostics, identifies people who are most likely to benefit from nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs). The £95 test is currently only available via the company's website, which also offers advice on giving up smoking.
The scientists, lead by Rob Walton, say that around 35 per cent of people have a genetic variation that increases their chances of becoming addicted to nicotine. Such people are more likely to quit smoking if they use nicotine patches, or other forms of NRT. However, smokers who do not have this variation are apparently more likely to succeed if they use other methods, say the team. Walton said that the gene test also shows how quickly each smoker clears nicotine from the body, and 'helps determine the correct replacement dose in patches and gums'.
The NicoTest website does not actually state which gene the test looks at. However, earlier this year, Walton's team published research on the link between different versions of the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2) and the effectiveness of nicotine patches. They found that women with the 'T' version of the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2) were more likely to stop smoking if they wore a nicotine patch, whereas women with the 'C' version did not benefit from wearing a patch. For the men in the study, their DRD2 gene type made no difference to their ability to stop smoking when wearing a patch.
G-Nostics co-founder Mark Tucker said that the test would probably include other genetic variations in the future, to make it more specific. But a spokeswoman for the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health expressed scepticism about the usefulness of the test. 'Some people are social smokers and find it difficult not to smoke when out with friends, whereas others are addicted to nicotine', she told BBC News Online, adding 'I'm not sure people need a gene test to know which type they are'. She advised anyone wanting quit to contact their local stop smoking service, who can help increase the chances of success from 5 to 20 per cent.