Vaping damages people’s DNA – just like traditional cigarettes, new research warns.
The chemical changes – so-called epigenetic changes – can lead to malfunction of the genes.
They occur in almost all types of cancer and other serious diseases. A similar pattern was found between e-cigarette users and conventional smokers.
Lead author Professor Ahmad Besaratinia of the University of Southern California said, “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.
“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.”
Mitichondria are the cells’ power plants – they generate and store energy from digested food.
Prof. Besaratinia stated, “When mitochondria become dysfunctional, they release key molecules.
“The released molecules can act as signals for the immune system and trigger an immune response that leads to inflammation.
“This plays a crucial role in the development of various diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, metabolic diseases and cancer.”
Since their market launch over a decade ago, e-cigarettes have enjoyed great popularity, especially among young people.
They come in a variety of flavors and have been marketed as a safe alternative to tobacco products. Studies since then have suggested otherwise.
But most vapers are either “dual users” who vape and smoke – or have a history of using traditional cigarettes.
A US team has now shown that the devices are associated with harmful biological effects – regardless of the smoking history.
They divided 82 healthy adults into current vapers with and without a history of smoking, cigarette smokers, and a control group who hadn’t done either.
The information was verified by the concentration of cotinine, a breakdown product of nicotine, in blood samples.
Complete DNA mapping and computer models found an increasing number of dysregulated genes in the blood cells of vapers.
Prof. Besaratinia said: “We have found that more than 80% of gene dysregulation in vapers correlates with the intensity and duration of actual vaping.
“While none of the identified gene dysregulations in vapers correlated with their previous smoking intensity or duration.”
The effects described in the journal Scientific Reports mirror those of smoking – which cause even more extensive damage.
The researchers previously showed that e-cigarette users develop some of the same cancer-related molecular changes in oral tissue that smokers do.
They also discovered that vapers had the same kind of cancer-related chemical changes in their genome.
The latest study shows that mitochondrial genes are preferred targets for gene dysregulation – both in vapers and smokers.
They also found that vapers and smokers exhibited significant dysregulation of immune response genes.
The “new and significant” findings are linked. There is growing evidence that mitochondria play a critical role in immunity and inflammation.
It is estimated that around 3.6 million Britons vape. More than a third of 15 year olds in the UK have used e-cigarettes.
Prof. Besaratinia said, “Given the popularity of e-cigarettes among young never-smokers, our findings will be important to regulators.
“To protect public health, these agencies urgently need scientific evidence to help regulate the manufacture, distribution and marketing of e-cigarettes.”
Next, he plans to identify and study harmful chemicals found in both e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke.
Public Health England has repeatedly endorsed e-cigarettes. However, other experts are concerned about safety concerns and their use by young people.
Vaping has been linked to 200 health problems, including heart disease and pneumonia.
In August, another US team found that vaping can only damage cells once – increasing the risk of cancer and other life-threatening diseases.