E-cigarettes can change gene expression in a similar way to that of tobacco, according to a story by Daniel Cressey for Nature quoting one of the first studies to investigate the biological effects of the devices.
Presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting in San Diego, California, USA ,the research looked at human bronchial cells that contained some mutations found in smokers at risk of lung cancer. The cells were immortalized, grown in culture medium that had been exposed to e-cigarette vapor and their gene expression profiled.
The researchers found that the cells grown in medium exposed to the vapor of e-cigarettes showed a similar pattern of gene expression to those grown in a medium exposed to tobacco smoke.
The changes were not identical, said study researcher, Avrum Spira, who works on genomics and lung cancer at Boston University in Massachusetts. But “there are some striking similarities,” he said.
The researchers are now evaluating whether the alterations mean that cells behave more like cancer cells in culture.
The work is at a very early stage and therefore cannot establish that e-cigarettes can cause cancer in vitro, let alone in vivo.
Spira said that the use of e-cigarettes might be safer than the use of tobacco cigarettes, but that the researcher’s preliminary studies suggested that the use of the former might not be benign.