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E-cigs can Trigger the Same Lung Changes Seen in Smokers, Emphysema

Feb2020image004Scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine say they have found that the lungs of vapers – individuals who use vaping devices – show higher levels of protease enzymes, a condition known to cause emphysema in smokers. These same signs were found in the lungs of smokers.

Researchers said they found that the nicotine in vaping liquids is responsible for the increase in protease enzymes, leading them to conclude that those who vape may suffer from some of the same adverse health effects as cigarettes. Specifically, evidence suggests that vaping can increase the same cellular responses found in smokers who suffer from emphysema.

“This study indicates that vaping may not be safer than cigarette smoking,” said senior study author Robert Tarran, Ph.D., a member of the Marsico Lung Institute at the UNC School of Medicine.

Researchers measured levels of three protease enzymes in lung fluid sampled from 41 people – non-smokers, smokers, and vapers. Cigarette smoke causes immune cells in the lungs to secrete these enzymes at higher levels. Chronic overactivity of these protein-chewing enzymes damages the tiny sensitive air sac structures in the lungs that allow people to breathe. In smokers, this damage can cause emphysema.

Scientists found the levels of these enzymes were much higher in smokers and vapers, but not in non-smokers, suggesting that vaping may promote emphysema.

The scientists said evidence indicates that nicotine in vaping liquids is the cause of the elevated-protease reaction. Because of this, vaping risks may be underestimated, especially regarding emphysema and COPD.

The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. To review additional study information or more about the report, visit Science Daily.