Purpose: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) are relatively new devices that allow the user to inhale a heated and aerosolized solution. At present, little is known about their health effects in the human lung, particularly in the small airways (< 2 mm in diameter), a key site of airway obstruction and destruction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other acute and chronic lung conditions. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of e-cigarettes on human distal airway inflammation and remodeling. Methods: We isolated primary small airway epithelial cells from donor lungs without known lung disease. Small airway epithelial cells were cultured at air–liquid interface and exposed to 15 puffs vapor obtained by heating a commercially available e-cigarette solution (e-vapor) with or without nicotine. After 24 hrs of e-vapor exposure, basolateral and apical media as well as cell lysates were collected to measure the pleiotropic cytokine interleukin 6 (IL6) and MUC5AC, one of the major components in mucus. Results: Unlike the nicotine-containing e-vapor, nicotine-free e-vapor significantly increased the amount of IL6, which was coupled with increased levels of intracellular MUC5AC protein. Importantly, a neutralizing IL6 antibody (vs an IgG isotype control) significantly inhibited the production of MUC5AC induced by nicotine-free e-vapor. Conclusion: Our results suggest that human small airway epithelial cells exposed to nicotine-free e-vapor increase the inflammatory response and mucin production, which may contribute to distal lung airflow limitation and airway obstruction.
- Electronic cigarette
- Interleukin 6
- Small airway epithelial cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy