Developing preclinical models to uncover the molecular perils of inhaled toxicants
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air. This pollution can come from a wide variety of sources, including air pollution caused by industries, traffic, common occupations (such as coal mining, welders) and cigarette smoke. Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, with cigarette smoke being the main cause for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. There is also a surge in the use of new products such as ecigarettes (“vapes”), particularly with young adults. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco but function to deliver nicotine to the brain. E-cigarettes typically consist of a rechargeable battery, an atomizer (or heating element/coil) and a liquid that contains a solvent (usually propylene glycol [PG] and vegetable glycerin [VG]), nicotine and various additives including flavors. E-cigarettes can also be used to inhale cannabisbased products including THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis (marijuana). However, health effects associated with the use of e-cigarettes are almost completely unknown due in part to the fact that long-term public health data is simply not yet available. Utilizing preclinical in vitro and in vivo models, we are examining the mechanisms through which tobacco and non-tobacco products contribute to disease pathophysiology.