Scientists have found that exposure to JUUL vapes caused altered immune cell, gene, and protein levels in the lungs of mice.
E-cigarettes or vapes deliver nicotine to the lungs by heating a nicotine-containing liquid into a vapor. However, the liquid also typically contains other ingredients, including propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and flavorings.
Although e-cigarettes may have some benefits for tobacco smokers who want to quit, they have also become increasingly popular among youth. According to the CDC, more than 2.5 million young people reported using e-cigarettes in 2022.
However, not much is known about how vaping impacts lung health.
A study published on January 25 in the journal Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) may offer more clues about how e-cigarettes affect lung tissue.
To conduct the study, researchers exposed mice to either mango-flavored JUUL brand e-cigarettes containing 59 mg/ml of nicotine, a mixture of vaporized propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG), or regular room air daily for four weeks.
The mice in the JUUL and PG/VG groups underwent a puff regimen consisting of three 20-minute exposures per day for four weeks — an exposure time roughly equivalent to three years in humans.
After examining the rodent’s lungs, the team found that even low, chronic exposure to JUUL aerosols increased inflammatory cells in the lung tissue. In addition, prolonged inhalation of e-cigarette aerosols caused changes in respiratory immune cell composition and altered gene and protein levels in the lungs.
The team also found that JUUL exposure altered protein levels differently in male and female mice.
Because of the results, the authors suggest that e-cigarettes can cause significant cellular and molecular changes in the lungs.
"The health consequences of vaping are not known. Our results show that inhalation of the vapor generated by a popular brand of e-cigarette causes widespread changes inside the lungs, data that further highlight that these products are not inert and may lead to lung damage if used long term," said corresponding author Carolyn J. Baglole, Ph.D, from McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, in a news release.
Still, the study has some limitations. For example, because the researchers used mice, it is not certain if the results would be the same in humans. In addition, the authors suggest that future studies using longer exposure times would give more insight into the potential lung damage caused by chronic JUUL use.
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