Evaluation of the cytotoxic potential of e-cigarette vapor on cultured cardiac cells: a new study

Wednesday, 16 October 2013 12:20

Evaluation of the cytotoxic potential of e-cigarette vapor on cultured cardiac cells: a new study


A new study on electronic cigarettes was published today in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Researchers from Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Greece and Abich Toxicological Laboratory in Italy, lead by principle investigator Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos evaluated the cytotoxic potential of 20 different e-cigarette liquids (in vapor form) on cultured cardiac cells. Importantly, vapor was produced by using a commercially available e-cigarette device. Moreover, the effects of vapor produced using a new-generation high voltage device was examined for the first time. For comparison, the effects of tobacco cigarette smoke were also evaluated. The results of the study showed that e-cigarette vapor was by far less cytotoxic than tobacco cigarette smoke, with most of the samples showing absolutely no adverse effects on the cells.

“This study represents our continuous efforts to evaluate the end-result of e-cigarette use in laboratory conditions”, said Dr Farsalinos. He continued: “It should be emphasized that we reproduced real-life use of e-cigarette in this experiment, by using commercially available e-liquids and e-cigarette devices which are very popular among consumers. The results showed, once again, that e-cigarette vapor is significantly less harmful compared to tobacco cigarette smoke.”

The majority of the vapor samples were found to have no adverse effects on cardiac cells, with cell survival rates similar to cells cultured in clear medium. However, there were 4 samples showing reduced cell survival. Dr Farsalinos stated: “This study confirmed our suspicions that any problems with e-cigarette liquids do not come from the main ingredients (propylene glycol or glycerol) but from flavorings. There is a very small proportion of flavorings which may cause some harm, but this is still lower compared to tobacco cigarettes by orders of magnitude. Characteristically, even the worst performing e-liquids in our study (produced by using tobacco leaves to extract flavor) were 3 times less harmful compared to cigarette smoke. In any case, it should be reminded that flavors play an important role in the acceptance and success of e-cigarette as a smoking substitute, but i believe that all flavors need to be tested in order to identify which are the least harmful to use.”

A lot of debate concerning e-cigarettes is focused on nicotine. In this study e-liquids tested has 6 to 24mg/ml nicotine concentration. Dr Farsalinos commented: “Our results clearly indicate that cell survival was not associated with nicotine levels in e-cigarettes. This observation confirms previous studies showing that nicotine at levels relevant to smoking and e-cigarette use is not toxic to the cells.”

Dr Farsalinos and his group are involved in research on e-cigarettes since 2011. Several clinical and laboratory studies on e-cigarette safety have been published in peer-review medical journals and have been presented in international medical congresses.

The full text of the study is available with free access here