A study has warned that vaping damages people’s DNA in the same way as smoking normal cigarettes but to a lesser degree. These biological changes can cause diseases such as cancer, according to the University of Southern California study. Vaping has been viewed as a safer alternative to smoking, with the UK mulling plans to prescribe e-cigarettes to cigarette users to help them quit.
A team of researchers at the University of Southern California found that these biological changes happen even in papers who have never touched a cigarette. However, the changes are much more extensive in people who smoke tobacco products, they said. The study looked at 82 healthy adults split them into three categories, current papers, people who only smoke cigarettes and a control group who had never smoked or vaped.
They then analysed the genes of all participants and looked for changes in gene regulation in the blood cells of each participant. When the normal regulation of genes is disrupted it can interfere with gene function, leading to disease. Dr Ahmad Besaratinia, lead author and professor of research population and public health sciences, said “Our study, for the first time, investigates the biological effects of vaping in adult e-cigarette users, while simultaneously accounting for their past smoking exposure. Our data indicate that vaping, much like smoking, is associated with dysregulation of mitochondrial genes and disruption of molecular pathways involved in immunity and the inflammatory response, which govern health versus disease state.”
The team studied 37 current papers, 22 current smokers and 23 non-smokers in Los Angeles. They took blood samples from the participants to determine how many corrupted genes were in the various groups. After accounting for age and sex, they found a “statistically significant” association of damaged genes in capers, even if they had never smoked.
The study found 12 per cent of affected genes in vapers were in the mitochondria - the parts of cells that scientists say can help keep the immune system working effectively and prevent cancer and other diseases from developing. The number of damaged genes in smokers was around 7.4 times higher than in vapers, researchers said.
Dr Besaratinia said, “When mitochondria become dysfunctional, they release key molecules. The released molecules can function as signals for the immune system, triggering an immune response that leads to inflammation, which is not only important for maintaining health but also plays a critical role in the development of various diseases, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, metabolic diseases, and cancer.”