Local LSU researcher helms FDA sponsored study into effects of vaping
BATON ROUGE— A local doctor, who specializes in diseases of the lungs, is leading a key research study into the effects of vaping in hopes of helping Americans make more informed decisions when it comes to vaping.
Dr. Alexandra Noël, an assistant professor of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, says, "People initially thought vaping was safer than cigarette smoking. We could see in the lab that it is not safe. Inhaling e-cigarette vapor is harmful."
Dr. Noël is leading a two-year research project financed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to gather, measure, and assess information on the impact of vaping on lungs.
Her concern regarding the public's current understanding of vaping stems from the fact that when electronic cigarettes made their debut about 10 years ago, most people viewed e-cigs as a harmless alternative to cigarette smoking.
But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by December 2019, a total of 2,561 people throughout the U.S. had been hospitalized or died due to lung injuries associated with vaping or e-cigarette use.
“These deaths and illnesses are related to vaping, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Doctors are just now seeing the harmful effects,” said Noël.
She believes that while cigarette smoking is a slow killer, the chemicals that comprise devices used for vaping can have a contrastingly rapid health impact.
With the financial support of the FDA and NIH, Dr. Noël hopes to find out exactly how the chemicals used in vaping impact the body. “We are independently attempting to verify claims made by vaping device producers,” Noël said.
To track the dangers of vaping, Noël and her research team are examining how two design characteristics of third-generation tank-style e-cigarette devices—atomizer (coil) resistance and battery voltage—affect e-cigarette aerosol (vapor) composition and cellular toxicity. The team is also comparing the pulmonary toxicity responses of these e-cigarette aerosols (vapor) by evaluating lung function and screening for biomarkers of pulmonary toxicity in mice exposed by inhalation.
“We expect to see that vaping will decrease lung function,” Noël said.
Noël’s laboratory is currently funded by several grants, including those from the Louisiana Board of Regents and the NIH, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences/FDA.
Her work is also part of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine Center for Lung Biology and NIH Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence, or COBRE program.
Every six months she submits a report to the NIH NIEHS/FDA describing the results obtained thus far from her research.
“We hope to inform policymakers as they consider what they can regulate, for example, flavorings and types of devices. We give FDA the information and help them make decisions to improve public health,” Noël said.
Noël has completed the first of two years of funded research on vaping. In October 2019, she presented results so far to an audience of her peers at the NIH Tobacco Regulatory Science meeting and she’s already gathering preliminary data for her next studies.
While conducting vaping research at a veterinary school may strike some as unusual, it corresponds with the Vet School’s mission to teach, heal, discover, and protect.
The School works with other universities, government agencies, and private organizations to improve the lives and health of both people and animals.
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