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New study shows vaping can damage critical part of lungs

Researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry in London, Ont. have conducted a study that found vaping can negatively affect the pulmonary surfactant in the lungs, a critical layer which allows us to breathe.

With minimal research on the effects of e-cigarettes, Dr. Ruud Veldhuizen said the London-based research team wanted to further investigate the effects of vaping on the lungs.

“It was initiated a few years ago with a case study here in London that showed a patient having severe lung damage due to vaping,” explained Veldhuizen, a Lawson scientist and a professor at Schulich.

The team at Lawson discovered that inhaling e-liquids can damage a critical layer of the lungs called a pulmonary surfactant. Damage to this layer would make it difficult to breathe, Velduizen said.

They discovered this evidence in their study by placing a film of surfactant inside a syringe, and then using a vaping device pushed aerosol into the syringe, allowing the vapor to come in contact with the surfactant.

Researchers mimicked inhaling and exhaling vapor into the syringe 30 times, as a person would with their vape.

“After vaping, we saw high surface tension which suggests the surfactant would not be as effective at supporting proper lung function,” said Emma Graham, a Ph.D. student at Schulich, who is also the first author of the study.

While examining the different types of vaping flavours, devices, additives and nicotine, they found that some flavours, including menthol e-liquid, had worse effects.

Researchers also pointed to young adults often being targeted consumers of e-cigarettes which potentially leads to smoking cigarettes.

“As a young person, I’m very aware of the prevalence of vaping,” said Graham. “I also have a big interest in lung research and physiology. This study really piqued my interest because there is little out there about vaping and in regards to surfactant.”

The team’s work isn't finished yet. Veldhuizen and his researchers plan to further study the effects of e-cigarettes on the lungs and how to treat them, if possible. Top Stories

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