15 March 2021
New studies suggest that the chemicals found in e-cigarettes can disrupt the gut barrier and trigger inflammation within the body. This can potentially lead to a variety of health concerns.
Electronic nicotine delivery systems, commonly referred to as e-cigarettes and vaping devices were introduced to the international market in 2007. Since then, e-cigarettes have become widely popular, primarily among the youth.
A large amount of research surrounding its regulation and consumption has been focused on the addictive nicotine component in these devices; however, recent studies have increasingly begun to scrutinize the harmful potential of the chemicals in the e-liquids. The studies have found that chronic use of nicotine-free e-cigarettes led to a “leaky gut,” in which microbes and other molecules seep out of the intestines, resulting in chronic inflammation. Such inflammation can contribute to a variety of diseases and conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, dementia, certain cancers, atherosclerosis, liver fibrosis, diabetes, and arthritis.
E-cigarette usage continues to rise, yet the safety of e-cigarette aerosols is questioned. Using murine models of acute and chronic e-cigarette aerosol inhalation, murine colon transcriptomics and murine and human gut-derived organoids in co-culture models, we assessed the effects of e-cigarette use on the gut barrier
Histologic and transcriptome analyses revealed that chronic, but not acute, nicotine-free e-cigarette use increased inflammation and reduced expression of tight junction (TJ) markers. Exposure of murine and human enteroid-derived monolayers (EDMs) to nicotine-free e-cigarette aerosols alone or in co-culture with bacteria also causes barrier disruption, downregulation of TJ protein, and enhanced inflammation in response to infection.
These data highlight the harmful effects of “non-nicotine” component of e-cigarettes on the gut barrier. Considering the importance of an intact gut barrier for host fitness and the impact of gut mucosal inflammation on a multitude of chronic diseases, these findings are broadly relevant to both medicine and public health.
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