Puffing on e-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes can damage neural stem cells important to brain function, a new study says.
Researchers at the University of California at Riverside reported in a study published in the interdisciplinary open-access journal iScience that e-cigarettes cause stress-induced mitochondrial hyperfusion (SIMH) in stem cells.
People who smoke cigarettes think they are safe and clean, but evidence is mounting that nicotine is harmful whether it's smoked in a traditional cigarette or vaped in an e-cigarette.
"Although originally introduced as safer, ECs, such as Vuse and JUUL, are not harmless," said Atena Zahedi, first author of the research paper published in iScience.
"Even short-term exposure can stress cells in a manner that may lead, with chronic use, to cell death or disease. Our observations are likely to pertain to any product containing nicotine."
Zahedi added that damaged stem cell mitochondria could accelerate aging and lead to neurodegenerative diseases. Neural stem cells can get exposed to nicotine through the olfactory route, she explained. Users inhale the fumes, which can travel through the olfactory tracks to reach the brain.
Prue Talbot, director of the UCR Stem Cell Center, and Zahedi stress that youth and pregnant women need to pay especially close attention to their results.
"Nicotine exposure during prenatal or adolescent development can affect the brain in multiple ways that may impair memory, learning, and cognition," Talbot said. "Their brains are in a critical developmental stage."
The research was supported by grants from the Center for Tobacco Products of the Food and Drug Administration; and the National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.
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