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A study on humans, baboons and rats suggests an experimental drug that blocks some receptors in the brain may reduce cravings for nicotine. The findings could lead to new smoking cessation medications, the researchers say.

Reuters reports the drug, called GSK598809, block receptors in areas of the brain associated with tobacco addiction.

Researcher Manolo Mugnaini says the brain imaging used in the study shows pictures of the drug going to the receptors in areas that play a key role in nicotine addiction. “By following this model based on imaging of the brain, we know we can monitor the performance of the drug in humans in an efficacious way,” he said.

He first tested the drug on rats and baboons. He used results from that research to find an appropriate dose level for humans. Mugnaini then gave the drug to smokers who agreed to go without cigarettes overnight, and found it partially soothed their cravings for nicotine. The study suggested that using higher doses of the drug than used in the current study might be more effective, he said.

Mugnaini told Reuters the new drug could be used to reduce cravings once a person has stopped smoking, in order to limit the risk of relapse.

The results appear in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

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