Recent epidemiological data indicate that the popularity of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), and consequently nicotine use, is rising in both adolescent and adult populations. As nicotine is a known developmental neurotoxin, these products present a potential threat for those exposed during early life stages. Despite this, few studies have evaluated the toxicity of e-cigarettes on the developing central nervous system. The goal of this study was to assess neurotoxicity resulting from early-life exposure to electronic cigarette aerosols in an in vivo model. Specifically, studies here focused on neuroparameters related to neuroinflammation and neurotrophins. To accomplish this, pregnant and neonatal C57BL/6 mice were exposed to aerosols produced from classic tobacco flavor e-cigarette cartridges (with [13 mg/ml] and without nicotine) during gestation (~3 weeks) and lactation (~3 weeks) via whole-body inhalation. Exposure to e-cigarette aerosols with and without nicotine caused significant reductions in hippocampal gene expression of Ngfr and Bdnf, as well as in serum levels of cytokines IL-1β, IL-2, and IL-6. Exposure to e-cigarette aerosols without nicotine enhanced expression of Iba-1, a specific marker of microglia, in the cornus ammonis 1 region of the hippocampus. Overall, our novel results indicate that exposure to e-cigarette aerosols, with and without nicotine, poses a considerable risk to the developing central nervous system. Consequently, e-cigarettes should be considered a potential public health threat, especially early in life, requiring further research and policy considerations.
- Developmental neurotoxicology
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