E-cigarettes linked to gene changes that can cause disease

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Since they hit the market, e-cigarettes have been touted as a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes for adult smokers.

In a new study from the Keck School of Medicine of USC, researchers found that—independent of the effects of prior smoking—using e-cigarettes is linked to adverse biological changes that can cause disease.

They found that vapers experience a similar pattern of changes to gene regulation as smokers do, although the changes are more extensive in people who smoke.

The data indicate that vaping, much like smoking, is associated with dysregulation of mitochondrial genes and disruption of molecular pathways involved in immunity and the inflammatory response, which govern health versus disease state.

In the study, the team recruited a diverse group of 82 healthy adults and separated them into three categories: current vapers, with and without a prior history of smoking; people who exclusively smoke cigarettes; and a control group of never-smokers and never-vapers.

They conducted comprehensive in-person interviews to get a detailed vaping and smoking history from each participant.

The researchers then conducted a genome-wide search for changes in gene regulation in the blood cells of each of the participants.

When the normal regulation of genes is disrupted and genes become dysregulated, that dysregulation can interfere with gene function, leading to disease.

The team found that more than 80% of gene dysregulation in vapers correlated with the intensity and duration of current vaping.

Whereas none of the detected gene dysregulation in vapers correlated to their prior smoking intensity or duration.

In both vapers and smokers, mitochondrial genes are preferential targets of gene dysregulation. They also found that vapers and smokers had strong dysregulation of immune response genes.

The team says growing evidence shows that mitochondria play a critical role in immunity and inflammation.

Adults aren’t the only ones vaping. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 2 million middle and high school students in the U.S. report using e-cigarettes.

The team says that this is one of the main reasons why the team’s research is so critical to informing policy around vaping.

If you care about smoking, please read studies about smoking may increase heart disease risk by 200% and findings of cigarette smoke may make MRSA superbug bacterium more drug-resistant.

For more information about smoking and your health, please see recent studies about e-cigarette smoke may cause lung cancer, bladder disease and results showing that quitting smoking could lead to major changes in gut bacteria.

The study is published in Scientific Reports. One author of the study is Ahmad Besaratinia, Ph.D.

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