Smoking e-cigarettes while pregnant could increase risk of birth defects

‘We aim to educate the public about the dangers of vaping and compel policymakers to impose tighter regulations, such as warning labels’

Smoking e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the face and oral cavity, new research suggests.

Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University exposed frog embryos and mammalian neural crest cells to chemicals in to test whether or not they cause defects, to find out what happens to fetuses when e-cigarettes are used during pregnancy.

Frogs, like other vertebrates, are similar to humans embryonically.

Publishing their findings in the PLOS One journal, they wrote that the same processes and genes govern major developmental events, such as craniofacial development, or the formation of the skull and face.

“This means that if a chemical perturbs a frog embryo, it’s likely to do the same thing to a human embryo,” said lead researcher, Professor Amanda Dickinson.

Mammalian neural crest cells are also ideal models because they have a key role in embryonic facial development, added her colleague, Rene Olivares-Navarrete.

“Neural crest cells are extremely important in the development of craniofacial structures because they can form many different tissues like bones, cartilage, skin, teeth and glands,” Mr Olivares-Navarrete said.

After exposing the embryos to vapour, the researchers recorded the facial measurements and any incidents of cleft palates the embryos developed.

Vapour is created when e-liquids, a blend of nicotine, propylene, glycol, vegetable glycerin and various flavouring compounds, are heated within the e-cigarette during inhalation.

The researchers also tested the effects of the mixture on the viability and function of neural crest cells.

The findings strongly suggested using e-cigarettes could lead to birth defects and in specific experimental trials for specific e-liquid types, all the frog embryos development cleft palates.

“We observed that very complex e-liquids that mix flavours, such as berries and creme and other food-related flavourings, may have the most dramatic effect on the face,” Ms Dickinson said.

All the frog embryos exposed to one particular e-liquid developed clefts with varying degrees of severity, but the researched did not reveal the specific names of the e-liquids or the companies that produce them.



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