November 23 (UPI) – Vaping without smoking a cigarette has been linked to biological changes that can cause inflammation that can lead to disease, according to a study published Tuesday in Scientific Reports.
Researchers at the University of Southern California found that chemicals in e-cigarette vapors permanently impair cell function and cause chronic inflammation, which can then lead to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic and cancer.
While these biological effects were found to be independent of previous cigarette smoking, the researchers say the changes are more extensive in people who smoke.
“Our study examines for the first time the biological effects of vaping on adult e-cigarette users while also taking into account their previous smoke exposure,” said the study’s correspondent author, Ahemad Besaratinia, in a press release.
“Our data suggest that vaping, like smoking, is linked to dysregulation of mitochondrial genes and disruption of the molecular pathways involved in the immunity and inflammatory response that determine health versus disease,” Besaratinia said , Professor of Research Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine at USC.
The research team previously found that e-cigarette users develop some of the same cancer-related molecular changes in oral tissue that cigarette smokers do. They also found that vaping was linked to similar biological changes.
For the new study, the researchers divided 82 healthy adult participants into three groups, including current vapers, current smokers and nonsmokers, and non-vapers, according to the study published in Scientific Reports.
The researchers then conducted a genome-wide search for changes in gene regulation in these participants and used other computer models to determine whether the genetic disorder was separate from previous smoking.
They found that mitochondrial genes are preferred targets of gene dysregulations for both vapers and smokers, and that both populations showed significant dysregulation of immune response genes.
“When mitochondria become dysfunctional, they release key molecules,” said Besaratina. “The released molecules can act as signals for the immune system and trigger an immune response that leads to inflammation.”
This is “not only important for maintaining health, but also plays a crucial role in the development of various diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, metabolic diseases and cancer,” said Besaratina.
Vaping is widespread among adolescents and teenagers, as well as adult smokers looking for a less harmful alternative to cigarettes, but the long-term health consequences are largely unknown, according to the researchers.
E-cigarettes do not burn tobacco to produce inhalable materials, but rather heat liquids, which makes them appear less harmful than smoking cigarettes.
Last month, a study published by Chemical Research in Toxicology found that steamers contained thousands of unknown chemicals and substances, including some that were potentially harmful, according to researchers.
E-cigarette contact has also been previously linked to a variety of cardiovascular, inflammatory, and respiratory diseases.
A separate study published earlier this month by researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, which examined nearly 80,000 medical records, found that adults who vape were more likely to have strokes than those who smoke tobacco.