Risks Of Lung Infection
Rumours about the health effects of vaping have been around since the phenomenon first started to become popular. But in recent years we’ve been getting the results of more and more research into vaping, giving us a better picture of how healthy or dangerous vaping really is.
One recent study into the effect of vaping has suggested that vaping could increase the risk of lung infections in vapers. This research has generated some alarming headlines, but are the actual findings something we should be worried about?
This research involved a small study using cultured lung tissue from just eight subjects, so it is difficult to draw firm conclusions. More research needs to be done with a larger sample size and using living lungs to confirm whether these findings are accurate.
The research was funded by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council and the British Lung Foundation and carried out by the University of Birmingham and Swansea University in the United Kingdom, and the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in the US.
The study involved alveolar macrophages, a type of lung cell that help prevent dust and infectious bacteria entering our airways. Samples of these cells were taken from eight people and exposed to condensed e-liquid vapour before being examined for damage.
Researches used a device of their own design to generate puffs of vapour that are intended to replicate how people vape. These puffs of vapour were then condensed into a liquid before being exposed to the cultured lung cells.
The research found that alveolar macrophages exposed to the condensed liquid created by their machine were less healthy than cells exposed to e-liquid that hadn’t been vaped. They also found that e-liquids containing nicotine had a more noticeable effect on the cells than nicotine-free e-liquids.
The results of this study suggest that vaping might damage the lung cells that help prevent infection and irritants entering the airways. But this is just one study using cultured tissue from a small selection of people and artificially generated vapour, so we can’t draw firm conclusions from the results.
Studies using larger numbers of living lungs to produce more solid findings will help prove if these initial findings are accurate or not.
Using living human lungs for research has drawbacks too as it involves exposing people to potentially harmful conditions and is more expensive and difficult than using cultured cells. But in order to fully understand the effect of vaping on our bodies, we need the most reliable and accurate evidence possible and this comes from using living lungs instead of cultured cells.
How, Why, What And Where
This study looked into the effect of condensed e-liquid vapour on cultures of alveolar macrophages. These samples of lung cells were taken from a small group of eight people who had never smoked and had no history of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Condensed e-liquid vapour is the liquid that forms after vaping and the researchers generated this condensate using a machine designed to replicate the way vapers use e-cigarettes.
The condensed e-liquid was then used in a series of experiments, comparing the effect of the condensate and un-vaped e-liquids. Cells were exposed for hours at a time and then examined for signs of damage or inflammation.
Research using cultured cells
This study involved testing the effect of vaping on lung tissue using cultures of lung cells. While studies like this are more reliable than testing the effects of vaping using mice, they are still less reliable than tests using actual humans.
It can be difficult judging how much e-cigarette vapour cells should be exposed to and for how long to represent the amount an average vapour inhales. Studies like this don’t produce strong conclusions as the actual amount of chemicals that vapours are exposed to could be very different from the amount used in the tests.
This means that more research is needed to confirm how accurate these findings are.
Results of the study
The research found that condensed vapour caused more damage to the cells than un-vaped e-liquid.
The damage found during this study was more severe with increased concentrations of the condensed e-liquid vapour and when using e-liquids containing nicotine.
The research recommended further testing using human subjects to provide a better understanding of how vaping affects alveolar macrophages and the risk of lung infection.
And So It Goes
The results of this study suggest that vaping can increase the risk of lung infections by damaging alveolar macrophages, cells that help prevent infection. But this research might not be an accurate representation of how vaping affects the lungs as there are limitations to the methods used in the study.
This research was carried out on cultured cells from eight people, a small number of subjects. The cells were exposed to condensed e-liquid vapour created by a machine designed to replicate the way people vape.
Accurately representing the amount of vapour that the average vaper is exposed to is one of the difficulties when testing using cultured cells instead of living lungs. Human test subjects only need to use the same amount as the average vaper to expose their lungs to the right levels of vapour. But with cultured cells the researchers have to decide what level of exposure to use and this has led to problems with the accuracy of studies.
The study also doesn’t compare the effect of vaping on alveolar macrophages cells with the effect of smoking. As most people turn to vaping to help them quit smoking and the health risks involved, comparing vaping and smoking would be very useful for anyone thinking about moving from smoking to vaping.