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New study shows vaping has no affect on 'respiratory toxicity' of the lungs

While most research involving the possible effects of vaping on respiratory toxicity focus primarily on the cells located in the pulmonary airways, a new study takes a decidedly different approach.  Published just last week, the report focusses more on the relationships between the lining of lungs and the nanoparticles of cigarette smoke compared to those of e-cig vapor.  What the scientists discovered is that vaping does not inhibit the body’s ability to reduce surface tension in the pulmonary surfactant of lungs, which is critical new information to better understanding the benefits of electronic cigarettes.

Pulmonary surfactant is the technical name for the lining covering the majority of surface area of the lungs while also being responsible for limiting the surface tension caused by alveolar fluid.  Without these surfactants, the lungs would not work smoothly or efficiently.  Everything that a person inhales comes in contact with the pulmonary surfactant, including e-cig vapor and cigarettes smoke. The research was designed to monitor the surfactant’s abilities to regulate surface tension based on three comparative principles:  normal air, smoking, and vaping.


The research was led by Dr. Amir Farnoud, a scientist from Ohio University who specializes in the interactions of nanoparticles with the human body.  The vaping study entitled, Electronic cigarette vapor alters the lateral structure but not tensiometric properties of calf lung surfactant is published in BioMed Central Respiratory Research.

Overview of the Farnoud vaping study

Dr. Farnoud and his team began by applying a clinical surfactant extract called Infasurf to a Wilhemy plate.  Infasurf is a common treatment used in infants born with a lack of necessary pulmonary surfactant.  The research team not only tested the extract based on the three pre-determined principles, but they also experimented with different flavors of e-liquids, as well.

With so many stories surfacing in the mainstream media in recent months regarding the alleged negative health effects of flavored e-liquids, the scientists wanted to be able to successfully rule out any discernible differences in possible outcomes.  After conducting the series of tests, the research team discovered the following.

“E-cigarette vapor regardless of the dose and flavoring of the e-liquid did not affect surfactant interfacial properties. In contrast, smoke from conventional cigarettes had a drastic, dose-dependent effect on Infasurf® interfacial properties reducing the maximum surface pressure from 65.1 ± 0.2 mN/m to 46.1 ± 1.3 mN/m at the highest dose. Cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapor both altered surfactant microstructure resulting in an increase in the area of lipid multilayers. Studies with individual smoke components revealed that tar was the smoke component most disruptive to surfactant function.”
“While both e-cigarette vapor and conventional cigarette smoke affect surfactant lateral structure, only cigarette smoke disrupts surfactant interfacial properties. The surfactant inhibitory compound in conventional cigarettes is tar, which is a product of burning and is thus absent in e-cigarette vapor.”

To be more succinct, Dr. Farnoud and his team found that the lung damage associated with smoking does not occur from vaping because e-cigs and e-liquids lack the deadly tar found in combustible tobacco.  E-cigarette vapor simply does not negatively affect the pulmonary surfactant like smoking does, even when measured at microscopic levels.  The researchers also indicate their curiosity as to whether e-cig vapor inhibits the body’s ability to produce or secrete pulmonary surfactant, and this area of research will likely be their next project. 


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