NYUCD awarded $1.6M grant to explore biological and physiological effects of e-cig use on oral health

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded NYU College of Dentistry (NYUCD) Professors Deepak Saxena, MS, PhD, and Xin Li, PhD, a four-year $1.6M NIDCR grant to study the biological and physiological effects of electronic cigarette aerosol mixtures on oral health.

Colloquially referred to as "e-cigs" and "vapes," electronic cigarettes and vaporizers have seen breakthrough market shares in recent years. Yet despite their popularity, the safety of aerosol mixtures emitted by these devices remains unknown. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three million middle and high school students actively used electronic cigarettes in 2015.

To increase its regulatory authority over these devices, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires safety data on the compounds found in the water vapor they emit, namely formaldehyde (which is known to cause cancer), lead, nitrosamines, and propylene glycol. The grant received by Saxena and Li was one of seven such grants awarded by the NIDCR to promote and improve understanding of how aerosol mixtures emitted by e-cigarettes impact the oral cavity. The initial host interaction of aerosol mixtures produced by e-cigs occurs largely in the oral cavity, where exposure to aerosolized nicotine and other components is highest.

"Based on compelling data from our preliminary research, we hypothesize that e-cig aerosol mixtures disrupt the oral cavity's microenvironment, increasing vulnerability to periodontal disease," said Saxena.

"Smoking is a major risk factor for periodontal diseases, immuno-suppression, and impairment of soft tissue and bone cell function," said Li. "The prospective study we proposed to the NIDCR entails the enrollment of 120 subjects consisting of 40 nonsmokers, 40 subjects who regularly smoke cigarettes but do not use e-cigs, and 40 subjects who exclusively use e-cigs and study the effect of e-cig aerosol on periodontal health."

The researchers will recruit and stratify members of the e-cig group by the type of disposable e-cig and amount of cartridge they consume per week. Baseline saliva and subgingival plaque samples will be collected from all 120 subjects and once again in six months. After the second collection, a comparison to the baseline samples will be done to determine if any dysbiosis in the oral microbiome has occurred. Oral exams will be done at both visits.

"To determine the mechanism by which e-cig aerosol effects oral health we will design a novel 3D epigingival tissue model to mimic the oral microenvironment," said Li.

"This study will be the first to determine the adverse health effects of e-cig use on oral health. The outcomes will aid the NIH-NIDCR in evaluating the oral health risk and the regulation of e-cigs," said Saxena.


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