Cigarettes Potentially As Harmful As Tobacco Cigarettes, Says Study

Faith Castro
June 14, 2017

Their first application with the breakthrough gadget?

New York, June 12, 2017: Electronic cigarettes loaded with nicotine-based liquid are potentially as harmful as tobacco cigarettes when it comes to cancer-causing DNA damage, new research has found. Even non-nicotine e-cigarettes cause as much DNA damage as filtered cigarettes, the UConn study found, possibly due to the numerous chemical additives contained in e-cigarette vapor.

In the University of CT study, researchers used a specialized device to test how inhaling both nicotine-based liquid and vapor from non-nicotine e-cigarettes could damage DNA at the cellular level. The device uses micropumps to push liquid samples across multiple microwells. These reactions between the metabolites and DNA then generate light, which is captured by a camera. By the light intensity detected in each well, users can see the amount of relative DNA damage a sample produces within 5 min.

Kadimisetty said the device is unique in that it converts chemicals into their metabolites during testing, which replicates what happens in the human body.

The researchers passed vapour from e-cigarette devices over human cells in a device which "lit up" to show damage.

"I never expected the DNA damage from e-cigarettes to be equal to tobacco cigarettes", says Karteek Kadimisetty, lead author on the study.

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Interestingly, a contrasting study was released late in 2016 claiming e-cigarette vapor had no mutagenic effect on DNA.

To compare e-cigarette and cigarette dependence, researchers at Penn State College of Medicine analyzed responses to surveys taken in the PATH study.

The catch is in the misconception that e-cigarettes are somehow healthier than regular tobacco cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes first appeared on the commercial market in 2004.

But the research into the health implications, and dangers, of electronic cigarettes, are still much debated by medical scientists. A study in 2015 found e-cig vapor to contain the same damaging free radicals found in tobacco smoke, albeit in much lower quantities, and a recent study found e-cigarettes could pose a risk to cardiovascular health, though again, probably much less than tobacco smoking. "We wanted to see exactly what might be happening to DNA". Of the e-cigarette users, 93 per cent once regularly smoked cigarettes and about 7 per cent experimented with cigarette smoking. While no one may doubt that a puff of a tobacco cigarette is more risky than one from an e-cigarette, both tend to include a dose of nicotine, glycerin, and flavorings. The testing device was then loaded with the specific enzymes that would convert these chemicals into metabolites, and measure whether genotoxicity was present. The array developed at UConn provides an important initial screening tool for genotoxicity in just minutes.

"What we developed is very cheap to make, efficient, and can be used by nearly anyone", says UConn chemistry professor James Rusling, the senior researcher on the study. Rusling says similar arrays potentially could be used for quick genotoxic screening during drug development, for monitoring or testing fresh water supplies, and for the early detection of aggressive forms of cancer.

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