Researchers create tobacco without nicotine 2

Researchers create tobacco without nicotine

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(Photo: federation alliance / dpa)

Nicotine is a harmful substance naturally found in tobacco leaves. When he smokes, it becomes a cure for addiction. Researchers first manage his exile from the leaves. The tobacco industry is interested.

Smoking is an extremely unhealthy addiction that many people want to get rid of. Nicotine stains or chewing gum do not help everyone quit because nicotine in tobacco has a high dependency and a potential for relapse. Researchers at TU Dortmund have set themselves the task of developing nicotine-free tobacco plants.

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(Photo: federation alliance / dpa)

After three years of work, a team led by Julia Schachtsiek and Felix Stehle has been able to reduce the nicotine content of tobacco leaves below the limit of detection. For their work, researchers first selected leaves of the Virginia Smoking Tobacco variety and placed portions of it in Petri dishes. There was already a bacterial solution with Crispr gene scissors. The goal is to separate six genes that are tobacco responsible for nicotine production.

The plant then tried to reassemble the genes but made a mistake so that the genes were excluded. The plant could no longer produce nicotine. The researchers removed the gene scissors again to obtain a new tobacco plant containing only 0.04 milligrams of nicotine per gram, a reduction of 400 times. "Instead of 16 milligrams, every ounce of tobacco now has only 0.04 milligrams," Stehle explains. "No one in the world has managed to lower nicotine levels so far."

A new nicotine-free market

Even if the plants are non-GM for researchers, according to the July 2018 case law, they cannot be grown in Europe. Seedlings for the trial series were grown under artificial light in the basement of the Campus North campus.

The tobacco industry has already shown interest in researchers' findings. On September 22, Stehle will present the results at the InterTabac Fair in Dortmund. With nicotine-free tobacco leaves, the tobacco industry could open up a new additional market, "… a market for smokers who want to quit smoking and people who want to keep their smoking rituals while avoiding harmful nicotine," explains Stehle.

However, smokers should not be satisfied too soon, because nicotine is first and foremost a substance for cigarette abuse. In addition, there are 4,800 chemical substances in Glimmstengel smoke, 70 of which are carcinogenic or suspected to be carcinogenic. And they would find themselves in a nicotine-free cigarette.

The results of the researchers were published in the "Plant Herbal Journal".