• Are E-Cigarettes Safe While Pregnant?

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Are E-Cigarettes Safe While Pregnant?

Dec 13 2017

For years it's been widely accepted that smoking while pregnant causes birth defects. But what about the new e-cigarette trend? While smoking numbers in Britain have hit an all-time low, new data reveals that the country is now home to around 2.3 million e-cigarette users.

The debate over whether vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco is fierce, with a new study recently adding fuel to the fire. According to principal investigator Amanda Dickinson, e-cigarettes have been linked to craniofacial birth defects in frog embryos. Dickinson is an associate professor in the Department of Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University, and warns that the same concerns could be valid for human embryos.

The link between vaping and birth defects in frog embryos

The study was published in the journal Plos One and saw Dickinson and her team expose both frog embryos and mammalian neural crest cells to the chemicals inhaled by vapers. The use of frogs was particularly important as the amphibians have similar embryonic forms to human babies. Neural crest cells were also targeted as they play an important role in the development of craniofacial structures such as skin, teeth, bones, cartilage and glands.

"This means that if a chemical perturbs a frog embryo, it's likely to do the same thing to a human embryo," warns Dickinson.

The results were alarming, with the team noting that after exposure to e-cigarette chemicals all frog embryos developed cleft palates. Furthermore, they found that complex and heavily flavoured e-liquids had a heightened effect on deformations.

Pinpointing the culprits

For co-author René Olivares-Navarrete, the study has revealed just a small glimpse at the potential dangers and outcomes of e-cigarettes.  

“Understanding if there is one or hundreds of molecules in e-cigarette vapor that negatively affect craniofacial development is a difficult task because the number of commercially available e-liquids is in the thousands,” comments Olivares-Navarrete. “But finding these answers would give us a better understanding of the possible adverse effects of e-cigarettes.”

Mice trials on the horizon

With the team hoping to advance to mice trials next year, the research could play a lifechanging role in educating e-cigarette smokers and forcing policymakers and manufacturers to impose health warnings.

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