Ever since electronic cigarettes were released, they have been marketed as a safe alternative to smoking. However, several doctors and many studies warn that the consequences of vaping are not yet thoroughly studied. According to new research, the usage of electronic cigarettes is associated with same airway genes modifications caused by smoking.
The study mentions that the e-cigarette use produces the same changes in the expression of immune-related genes in the mucous membrane as tobacco cigarettes.
In order to identify the airway genes modifications correctly, the research analyzed a series of participants divided into three different groups. The first group was formed of nonsmokers. The second group was represented by cigarette smokers, whereas the third consisted of e-cigarette users. The study investigated gene-expression profiles in all three groups and compared them to identify the consequences in each situation.
E-cigarette users and smokers kept records documenting their dependency and the frequency of their addiction. Also, blood and urine samples were taken and investigated in order to analyze nicotine levels and other indicators relevant to the exposure to tobacco.
After almost a month, scientists took some samples from the nasal airways of each participant and investigated the immune response gene expression.
The research, led by a team of experts supervised by Ilona Jaspers of the University of North Carolina, was published recently in the “American Journal of Physiology”. According to it, vapers and cigarette smokers had a decreased number of immune-related genes. This suggests that both addictions can cause airway genes modifications. Also, both dependencies reduce the immune response of the respiratory system.
As per the study, there were 53 genes with decreased expression in cigarette smokers. Compared to this number, vaping did much worse. Apart from the 53 genes identified in tobacco smokers, vaping added a supplementary 305 genes.
However, some limitations must be noted before drawing any conclusion. One of the most important is related to the fact that nine of the twelve electronic cigarette users were tobacco smokers before. Since the modifications produced by smoking normal cigarettes may be irreversible, the study couldn`t tell for sure that the changes were caused by e-cigarettes.
Despite the doubt about the accuracy of the conclusions, doctors still advise considering all aspects before deciding to use an electronic cigarette instead of a tobacco cigarette.
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