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Posted by Ted ( on June 30, 2001 at 11:18:47:

In Reply to: Headaches,imitrex,smoking,pissed off posted by Mike R on June 30, 2001 at 02:50:23:

But because of the vascular relationship a number of headaches have, and you stated you've been on the patch, this might hold some clues as to what's been happening to you:

Non-Smoked Nicotine Aids Blood Vessel Growth

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (June 29) - Contrary to their expectations, researchers have found that non-smoked nicotine stimulates the growth of blood vessels, a discovery that could raise questions about some therapy and the long-term use of nicotine patches.

``The body responds to nicotine by growing blood vessels. That is not a good thing or a bad thing,'' said Dr. John P. Cooke, director of vascular medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Encouraging the growth of blood vessels can be beneficial in cases where a patient has circulation problems, he explained. But it can also encourage the growth of tumors, which need blood vessels to grow, and vessel-clogging plaque, he said.

Cooke hastened to add that people can still use nicotine patches to stop smoking, but not for long periods.

``That is a very good therapy, nicotine patches, but they should be used as directed for a short term. Some people make the mistake of using them for a long term and that could have consequences,'' he said. ``But it's so important to stop smoking.''

Directions with the patches generally call for their use for a limited period.

``Our labeling is very clear that this is for a 10-week period, and use beyond 10 weeks is not recommended,'' said Ken Strahs, a vice president at GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Nicoderm CQ, one of the best known brands. ``We think that this study just emphasizes the need for smokers to quit smoking as soon as they possibly can.''

Dr. Rakesh Jain of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School agreed that it is vital to stop smoking and the patches can be useful.

``There is no reason to panic,'' he said in a telephone interview. ``To quit smoking, that's the best thing.''

Jain, who was not part of Cooke's team, said the results help confirm earlier studies, but more research needs to be done to better understand the effect of nicotine.

Cooke's findings are reported in Friday's issue of the journal Nature Medicine.

It's hard for many doctors to accept that non-smoked nicotine promotes blood-vessel growth because they are used to thinking of nicotine in connection with tobacco smoke, Cooke explained. Smoking can damage the circulation, but the effect is complicated because there are some 4,000 chemicals included in smoke, he explained.

Cooke said that was the case with his researchers, who were surprised by finding the increased blood flow in mice after the nicotine was either injected into muscle or supplied in water.

``This was totally a shock to us. We expected just the opposite,'' Cooke said in a telephone interview.

But they were able to confirm the results in cell cultures as well as in the mice.

While growing new blood vessels - known as angiogenesis - is good in some cases it can be bad if it encourages tumor or plaque growth.

Many people are surprised that plaques need blood, Cooke said, because the plaque seems inanimate. But he likened it to a coral reef, which also looks inanimate but is full of living cells.

``Cardiologists are very enamored now of angiogenic therapy to treat poor blood flow to the heart, to treat poor blood flow to the legs,'' Cooke commented.

But he cautioned that in this type of treatment it will be important to deliver the agents that encourage vessel growth directly to the place where needed.

``If they are given systemically it can have unwanted consequences,'' he said.

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