E-cigarettes may damage the brain’s stem cells, research shows

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Electronic cigarettes iStock

New research shows high levels of nicotine prevalent in e-cigarettes may be doing irreversible damage to human brains.

Arutz Sheva Staff, 22/07/19

A new research presented by the Israel Cancer Association found that electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, may cause neural stem cells.

Stem cells, which have not yet been specialized, are more sensitive to toxins, researchers said. These cells, present throughout life from the fetal period to adulthood, are especially critical since they develop into tissue for various parts of the body. The continued presence of toxins affects the cells’ ability to multiply and specialize.

According to the new research from the University of California, Riverside, nicotine from e-cigarettes breaks down brain cells, killing stem cells which would otherwise become neurons.

The damage also begins at a much earlier stage, the study published in the Cell Press journal and iScience noted. It estimated that this may be due to how the e-cigarettes’ liquid compounds break down and enter the stem cells’ energy centers.

Using stem cells from lab mice, researchers focused on mitochondria, exposing them to the liquids. They found that when high levels of nicotine, such as the amount in a Juul pod, cause the mitochondria’s defense mechanism – also called stress-induced mitochondrial hyperfusion (SIMH) – to malfunction, with the nicotine binding to “opening” receptors and allowing in large amounts of both nicotine and calcium, changing or even killing both the mitochondria and the stem cells.

Though this occurs with any nicotine product, the findings are especially concerning due to the high levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes – the Daily Mail noted that one Juul pod contains the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes – and the number of teens and pregnant women encouraged to use the products.

And according to the study’s authors, inhalation provides the nicotine with relatively easy access to the human brain.

UC Riverside’s Dr. Atena Zahedi, who coauthored the study, explained: “If the nicotine stress persists, SIMH collapses, the neural stem cells get damaged and could eventually die.” If this happens before they are able to become brain cells, “no more specialized cells – astrocytes and neurons, for example – can be produced from stem cells.”

“Although originally introduced as safer, e-cigarettes such as Vuse and JUUL are not harmless,” she emphasized. “Even short-term exposure can stress cells in a manner that may lead, with chronic use, to cell death or disease. Our observations are likely to pertain to any product containing nicotine.”

UCR Stem Cell Center Director Dr. Prue Talbot said: “Nicotine exposure during prenatal or adolescent development can affect the brain in multiple ways that may impair memory, learning, and cognition. Furthermore, addiction and dependence on nicotine in youth are pressing concerns. It’s worth stressing that it is nicotine that is doing damage to neural stem cells and their mitochondria. We should be concerned about this, given that nicotine is now widely available in ECs and their refill fluids.'”

Source: Arutz Sheva

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