"Investigating the Effect of Nicotine on the Expression of Neuroprotective Genes"

Prof. Metin Akay
Department of Biomedical Engineering,
University of Houston, USA


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the Unites States. Factors such as age, genetics, and environment contribute to the disease. It occurs in approximately 1% of the population over the age of 55. PD is characterized by the selective degeneration of dopaminergic neurons that are predominantly located in the midbrain; specifically, the substantia nigra (SN). Large scale data from microarray experiments reveal several genes significantly, differentially expressed between the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and SN dopamine neurons. Several epidemiological studies have found beneficial effects of smoking in patients with PD. For this reason, it is important to identify the genes that are involved in nicotine mediated neuroprotections. The current study attempted to explore the effects of cigarette smoking on the genetic patterns in the SN and VTA. Genes of interest to the study (PACAP, LPL, and GRP1) were shown to have neuroprotective functions. Expression of these genes from nicotine treated SD –male rats within three different age groups (3 months, 12 months, and 24 months) were analyzed with quantitative real-time polymerase chain reactions in the SN and VTA. Our data indicated that in both areas, nicotine promotes the expression of the PACAP gene in 3 month old rats. The lipoprotein lipase is up-regulated in the VTA whereas it exhibits down-regulation in the SN upon nicotine treatment in 3 months old rats. In addition, nicotine up-regulated the GRP1 expression in both the SN and VTA in 24 months old rats. We speculate that PACAP and GRP1 gene up-regulations by nicotine in the SN may be responsible for reducing the risk of PD.


Metin Akay is currently the founding chair of the new Biomedical Engineering Department and the John S. Dunn professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Houston. He received his B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey in 1981 and 1984, respectively and a Ph.D. degree from Rutgers University in 1990.

Dr. Akay has played a key role in promoting biomedical education in the world by writing and editing several books, editing several special issues of prestigious journals, including the Proc of IEEE, and giving more than hundred keynote, plenary and invited talks at international conferences, symposiums and workshops regarding emerging technologies in biomedical engineering.

He is the founding editor-in-chief of the Biomedical Engineering Book Series published by the Wiley and IEEE Press and the Wiley Encyclopedia of Biomedical Engineering. He is also the editor of the Neural Engineering Handbook published by Wiley/IEEE Press and was the first steering committee chair of the IEEE Trans on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics.

He established the Annual International Summer School on Biocomplexity from Gene to System sponsored by the NSF and the IEEE EMBS and was the founding chair of the IEEE EMBS Special Topic Conference on Neural Engineering. He is also the chair of the IEEE EMBS Neuroengineering Technical Committee. He was the program chair of the International IEEE EMBS 2001 and the co-chair of the Annual International IEEE EMBS 2006 and the program co-chair of the Annual International IEEE EMBS 2011 conference. He currently serves on the advisory board of several international journals and on several NIH and NSF review panels.

Dr. Akay is a recipient of the IEEE EMBS Early Career and Service awards as well an IEEE Third Millenium Medal and is a fellow of IEEE, the Institute of Physics (IOP), the American Institute of Medical Biological Engineering( AIMBE) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).