E-cigarettes have become extremely popular in recent years, largely because they are generally seen as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes. However, a recent study using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is calling into question whether e-cigarettes are really as safe as many people believe. That study looked at the effect a popular e-cigarette flavouring agent has on the lungs and found that it could actually increase the risk of respiratory infection.
If you’re thinking about pursuing HPLC training, the study is a great example of how HPLC can help improve the safety of products and keep consumers better informed.
Scientists Use HPLC Training to Analyze What Happens When Flavouring Agent Is Inhaled
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were interested in finding out whether cinnamaldehyde, which is frequently used in cinnamon-flavoured e-cigarettes, causes health problems when inhaled. Cinnamaldehyde is the flavouring agent found in cinnamon and it is what gives cinnamon its unique flavour. While it is considered safe when consumed as a food additive, the researchers noted that its chemical structure resembles toxic aldehydes found in cigarette smoke that are known to cause respiratory problems. As a result, they hypothesized that cinnamaldehyde may pose a health risk when inhaled through an e-cigarette.
To test that hypothesis, they used a variety of methods, including HPLC. First they diluted cinnamon e-liquids and e-liquid aerosol and put them in a culture of human bronchial cells. They then used a high-speed digital camera and video analysis system to determine what effect the cinnamon e-cigarette liquid had on the movement of cilia in the culture. Cilia are hair-like parts of bronchial cells and they help clear mucus and dirt from the respiratory system. The researchers also used HPLC to quantify the organic compounds in the bronchial cell culture. As you can discover in HPLC courses, quantification of organic compounds is one of the many ways that HPLC is used in sample analysis.
Cinnamon Flavouring Shown to Cause Increase Risk of Respiratory Infection
The researchers discovered that cinnamaldehyde slows down the movement of the cilia, making them less effective at removing dirt and mucus from the lungs. The study also showed that cinnamaldehyde disrupts mitochondrial function and mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation.
What all that means is that the flavouring makes it harder for the lungs to clear particles and pathogens that are inhaled. In turn, that means using cinnamon-flavoured e-cigarettes increases the risk of respiratory infection. It’s worth pointing out that the toxic aldehydes in tobacco cigarette smoke also increase the risk of respiratory infection for the exact same reason. As a result, researchers were able to put their HPLC training to use to show that e-cigarettes may not be as safe as their proponents often claim.
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