Newswise — Rockville, Md. (August 11, 2021)—The use of e-cigarettes (vaping) during pregnancy poses a significant health risk for the offspring, impairing blood vessel function even into adulthood, according to a new study by researchers at West Virginia University’s (WVU) School of Medicine. Diminished blood vessel capacity increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. The research article is published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology and has been chosen as an APSselect article for August.

This study was conducted using a rat model. Female rats were exposed to e-cigarette aerosol one hour a day for five days a week during pregnancy. The offspring were examined at one month, three months and seven months (adulthood), at which time the adverse effects of vaping were discovered. 

Study findings show the function of a major blood vessel in the brain (cerebrovascular function) was reduced by 50% at one-month-old and lasted all the way into adulthood. Physiologists conducting this study also learned the impaired brain blood vessel responses occurred regardless of whether vaping included nicotine. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has labeled vaping as a “public health concern.” A 2018 survey by the CDC found an estimated 8.1 million adults use e-cigarettes. 

“We know that there are many negative outcomes with smoking during pregnancy,” said lead researcher I. Mark Olfert PhD, FAPS, an associate professor at WVU. “These data are essentially showing that we have a very similar outcome from vaping.” 

These findings contradict the idea that e-cigarettes are “safe” or “safer” than cigarettes. The team of Olfert and Paul Chantler, PhD, hope this paper will lead to a closer evaluation of the effects of e-cigarettes on multiple organs and tissues before health care providers recommend vaping as an alternative to smoking, especially during pregnancy. 

Read the full article, “Long Term Cerebrovascular Dysfunction in the Offspring from Maternal Electronic Cigarette Use during Pregnancy.” It is highlighted as one of this month’s “best of the best” as part of the American Physiological Society’s APSselect program. Read all of this month’s selected research articles

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact APS Media Relations or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our Newsroom.

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.

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