Current study: E-cigarette vapor destroys neural stem cells in the brain

Passive smoking is a health hazard and can, among other things, increase the risk of cancer. But is there also a risk for passive smokers from e-cigarettes? Experts from the USA dealt with this question. (Image: esoxx01 / fotolia.com)

Effects of e-cigarettes on brain cells

There has been a growing debate lately about how harmful e-cigarettes really are. Researchers have now found that electronic cigarettes induce a stress response in neural stem cells that can even lead to cell death.

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The latest research from the University of California, Riverside found that e-cigarettes damage neural stem cells. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal “Cell Press”.

According to a recent study, e-cigarettes damage the cells in our brain. (Bid: esoxx01 / fotolia.com)

Stem cells are very sensitive to stress

Stem cells become specialized cells with specific functions such as brain cells or blood cells. Stem cells are far more sensitive to stress than the specialized cells that are ultimately formed from them. This also applies to exposure to toxic substances such as cigarette smoke. The extent to which electronic cigarettes can also damage stem cells became clear in the current study.

What is Stress-Induced Mitochondrial Hyperfusion?

Until now, it was unclear how the chemicals in e-cigarette vapor could affect neural stem cells, especially their mitochondria - the organelles that serve as the cells' powerhouses and are critical to regulating cell health. Using cultured neuronal stem cells from mice, the researchers identified the mechanism that underlies e-cigarette-induced stem cell toxicity as so-called stress-induced mitochondrial hyperfusion. Stress-induced mitochondrial hyperfusion is a protective survival response, report the study's authors. The data examined show that exposure of stem cells to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor elicits a reaction that leads to stress-induced mitochondrial hyperfusion.

How is cell death triggered by e-cigarettes?

Although e-cigarettes have been rated as safer compared to traditional cigarettes, they are not harmless. Even short-term exposure can stress cells in a way that, with repeated use, can lead to cell death. The observations relate to products that contained nicotine. The high nicotine level leads to a nicotine flooding of special receptors in the membrane of neuronal stem cells. Nicotine binds to these receptors and causes them to open. Calcium and other ions begin to enter the cell. At some point there will be a calcium overload, the researchers explain in a press release. Too much calcium in the mitochondria is harmful. The mitochondria swell and change their morphology and function. Molecules can even break open and leak out, causing cell death.

Health effects of damaged stem cells

If the nicotine stress persists, the neural stem cells become damaged and could eventually die. In this case, stem cells cannot produce specialized cells, such as astrocytes and neurons. Damaged stem cell mitochondria could accelerate aging and lead to neurodegenerative diseases. Neural stem cells can be exposed to nicotine via the olfactory route.

Adolescents and pregnant women should be especially careful

Teenagers and pregnant women in particular should be careful. The researchers report that adolescents' brains are at a critical stage of development.Nicotine exposure during prenatal or adolescent development can affect the brain in a number of ways and affect memory, learning, and cognition. In addition, addiction and nicotine addiction are particularly dangerous in adolescence. It should be emphasized that nicotine damages the neural stem cells and their mitochondria. This is particularly worrying as nicotine and e-cigarette liquids have become widespread in EU countries. (as)

You can also read these interesting articles on the subject:

  • Study: E-cigarettes are as harmful to our lungs as normal tobacco products?
  • E-cigarette use increases your risk of heart attacks and depression
  • Double the risk of heart attack with daily use of e-cigarettes
Tags:  Internal Organs Extremities Symptoms