Vaping May Damage Blood Vessels in the Brain, Scientists Warn
Researchers add to mounting pressure to ban E-cigarettes following series of deaths
Vaping may damage blood vessels in the brain leading to serious health issues or even death, scientists are now warning as they urge governments to introduce a ban.
Lab testing on mice and humans has suggested that vaping stiffens the arteries and speeds up the heart of the user, raising blood pressure and risking brain damage.
A chemical is then produced which forces a naturally-occurring enzyme in the body which triggers internal tissue damage, German researchers from the University Medical Center in Mainz say.
The research comes in a week that has already seen horror stories involving vaping with the latest scientific studies adding fuel to the fire.
Earlier this week, 19-year-old Ewan Fisher, from Nottingham, UK, almost died when vaping caused his lungs to fail.
A separate study determined that vaping devices are just as bad for the heart as tobacco.
According to the Daily Mail, a man in the US was revealed to be the first to have a double lung transplant because of vaping.
Cardiologists now say countries should think about following the example of India and Singapore and banning e-cigarettes outright.
Experts at the German university measured blood flow and vessel stiffness in arteries in the arms of 20 humans before and 15 minutes after they used an e-cigarette.
And they also exposed 151 mice to e-cigarette vapor for two hours per day over one, three or five days.
In the human participants – who were all smokers in real life but still considered 'healthy' – they found the vapor made their arteries stiffen up.
It also reduced the function of the cells in the blood vessel linings and increased oxidative stress – a chemical imbalance that can cause tissue damage – in blood vessels in the brain.
In rodents, the scientists found an enzyme that is found naturally in the body, named NOX-2, was being affected by the chemical acrolein which came from the e-cigarettes.
NOX-2, they said, was responsible for damage to blood vessels including ones in the lungs and brain. Mice without the enzyme were not harmed.
Professor Thomas Münzel said: "The results identified several mechanisms whereby e-cigarettes can cause damage to the blood vessels, lungs, heart and brain.
"This is a consequence of toxic chemicals that are produced by the vaping process and may also be present at lower concentrations in the liquid itself.
"Importantly, we identified an enzyme, NOX-2, that mediated all the effects of e-cigarettes on the brain and cardiovascular system, and we found that a toxic chemical called acrolein, which is produced when the liquid in e-cigarettes is vaporized, activated the damaging effects of NOX-2.
"Our data may indicate that e-cigarettes are not a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes, and their perceived 'safety' is not warranted."
Scientists not involved in the research, however, were quick to criticize it as "basic," saying it was "impossible to draw any firm conclusions" from the work.
The University of Dundee's Professor Jacob George said: "This is a basic science in-vitro and mouse study with a 20 human subject sub-study bolted on, where a single e-cigarette was vaped by volunteers and vascular function tested before and after.
"With regards to the human study, it is impossible to draw any firm conclusions from these small, single exposure studies which is why larger randomized clinical trials are needed."
Professor John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, said research needed to focus on comparing e-cigarettes to tobacco.
He added: "This study cannot tell us which of these effects are due to the nicotine in the vapor, and which (if any) are due to other vapor components.
"We know nicotine constricts blood vessels and is obviously essential if e-cigs are to be effective as a replacement for smoking.
"So we need to know whether any of these changes happen with no nicotine in the vapor, which we can’t tell from this study."
Professor Münzel, however, was adamant that children should be protected from becoming addicted to nicotine without ever having been smokers.
He and his colleagues suggested other countries follow in the footsteps of countries like India, Brazil, Singapore, Mexico, and Thailand and ban the devices.
He added: "We cannot allow an entire generation to become addicted to nicotine.
"The e-cigarette epidemic in the US and Europe, in particular among our youth, is causing a huge generation of nicotine-addicted people who are being endangered by encouragement to switch from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes.
"Research like ours should serve as a warning about their dangers, and aggressive steps should be taken to protect our children from health risks caused by e-cigarettes."