DNA damage from vaping is 96% less than smoking, says Big Tobacco study

A controversial study published last week by New York University researchers implies that vaping causes just as much DNA damage as smoking.  The scientists claim to have come to this conclusion by exposing mice to e-cig vapor.  They also claim that vaping caused a reduced production of XCP and OGG1/2 proteins which consistently repair lung tissue in the body.  Critics argue that the NYU scientists intentionally cranked up the vapor levels to abnormally high levels that no typical vaper would ever inhale. 

This is not the first time that the vaping industry has fallen victim to the spreading of bogus research.   The issue of vaping and DNA damage has been raised several times in the past.  In fact, a 2016 study led by Linsey Haswell of British American Tobacco (BAT) suggests that vaping causes as much as 96 percent less DNA damage compared to smoking.

British American Tobacco, by the way, is a manufacturer of such well-known combustible cigarette products as Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, and Dunhilll brands.  For Big Tobacco to publish an e-cig study that essentially paints their entire industry in a bad light is truly noteworthy.  Although, it should also be noted that the research was originally intended to promote their iQOS Heat-not-Burn technology. 

Overview of the Vaping & DNA study

The BAT study entitled Reduced biological effect of e-cigarette aerosol compared to cigarette smoke evaluated in vitrousing normalized nicotine dose and RNA-seq-based toxicogenomics is published on the Nature website.  Instead of using live animals for their experimentation, the Haswell team constructed a three-dimensional computerized model of the human respiratory system. 

The researchers then exposed the airway passages to both the second-hand smoke from combustible cigarettes and the second-hand vapor from electronic cigarettes.  But unlike the former study, both the smoke and the vapor had comparable levels of nicotine. 

Related Article:  New U.S. research: Smoking causes damage to DNA that can last 30 years

The scientists also measured the associated responsivity rates of nearly 1000 different genes.  They then monitored several biomarkers, including the following.

  • Apoptosis
  • Biosynthetic processes
  • Extracellular membrane pathways
  • FNA damage signaling
  • Genesest and GO functional annotations
  • Hypoxia
  • Metabolic/biosynthetic processes
  • Multiple genotoxins and non-genotoxins
  • Oxidative stress response rates
  • qPCR
  • RNA isolation
  • RNA-seq

What the BAT scientists determined is that smoking causes immediate and measurable DNA damage in some 876 genes within a 24-hour period after smoking.  Another 204 genes undergo some degree of genetic mutation within 48-hours.   Meanwhile, the e-cig vapor negatively impacted a total of only 4 genes during the same timeframe, for a 96.4 percent reduction in DNA damage compared to smoking.

“In vitro testing evidence, however, support the view that vaping causes less damage to cell systems when compared to smoking. Examples of robust in vitro assessment studies of novel nicotine delivery devices (heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes) have used a relevant cell model, a well-considered exposure strategy combined with holistic untargeted omics screens to comprehensively assess the biological perturbations.”

The researchers also attempted to identify which types of possible illnesses or disease might be caused from the associated genetic mutations and damage.  According to their findings, the DNA damage caused from smoking most closely resembles that which is associated with heart disease, lung cancer, fibrosis, and numerous respiratory disorders. 

Related Article:  New study shows vaping has no effect on 'respiratory toxicity' of the lungs


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