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Eureka!

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Published Jan 1, 2007 8:00 AM


16. Under Your Skin

What: The Nicotine Patch

Who: Scientists Murray E. Jarvik M.A. '45 and Jed Rose

Impact: Jarvik and Rose (then a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA) were curious about "green tobacco illness," a malady striking tobacco farmhands harvesting the crop in the South. That led to research on the potential positive implications of absorbing tobacco through the skin, which resulted in the creation of the transdermal patch that delivers nicotine directly into the body. The patch was first available in the U.S. by prescription in 1992. Four years later, it was approved for over-the-counter sale. Research shows that tools such as the patch can double smokers' chances of quitting successfully. Jarvik, now 83 and retired, posits that California was a likely place from which this invention would spring, "because people here walk around with so much skin exposed."

Eureka moment: When the researchers could not get approval to run experiments on any subjects, they tested their idea on themselves. "We put the tobacco on our skin and waited to see what would happen," Jarvik recalls. "Our heart rates increased, adrenaline began pumping, all the things that happen to smokers."

— Kristine Breese '86

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