US Pharm
. 2016;41(7):HS-20.

When one smokes cigarettes, dozens of genes important for immune defense are altered in the respiratory tract epithelial cells, and some of these changes likely increase the risk of bacterial infections, viruses, and inflammation. In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine scientists report that electronic cigarettes alter those same genes and hundreds more that are important for upper-airway immune defense.

To study what effects e-cigarettes have on genes that help the upper airways fight off potentially harmful pathogens, the researchers recruited 13 nonsmokers, 14 smokers, and 12 e-cigarette users. The team analyzed participant urine and blood samples to confirm nicotine levels and biomarkers related to tobacco use.

The scientists found that smoking cigarettes decreased the gene expression of 53 genes important for the immune response of epithelial cells. “I was really surprised by these results,” said lead researcher Ilona Jaspers, professor of pediatrics, and microbiology and immunology at UNC. “That’s why we kept going back to make sure this was accurate.”