URMC Researchers Awarded $2.1M to Study E-Cigarettes

August 07, 2014

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have commenced a study that will be used to help shape the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations on e-cigarettes, hookahs, and miniature cigars in the coming years.

The five-year study, which is supported by a $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, in conjunction with the FDA, began Aug. 1.

“We know that traditional tobacco cigarettes cause numerous diseases,” said Thomas J. Mariani, Ph.D., associate professor of Pediatrics, Medicine, and Environmental Medicine at URMC and the study’s lead researcher. “We intend to determine the disease risk associated with nontraditional tobacco-related products, like e-cigarettes.”

Thomas J. Mariani, Ph.D.

Mariani’s team is taking a three-pronged approach to the issue, studying the effects of e-cigarettes and other nontraditional tobacco products on humans, in rodents, and on the cellular level. The studies will place an added emphasis on how these products affect newborns and children.

The research comes in the wake of an explosion in the market for nontraditional tobacco products. When e-cigarettes first arrived on the market, only a small handful of manufacturers were producing smokeless tobacco. Now, the market is being flooded by a wide variety of products, each with their own distinct formulas.

“If we spent an hour driving around, we could probably find 10 different e-cigarette chemical mixes or ‘juices,’” said Mariani. “In part, our research will compare these e-cigarette ‘juices’ — which contain nicotine, some inert substances, and flavoring — and determine if any of them show responses that would create health concerns.”

Last year, the FDA began seeking proposals from research teams to study the effects of nontraditional tobacco. The administration is hoping to develop a better understanding of the effects of the products before issuing regulations.

Mariani has been studying the effects of cigarettes on lung disease for more than a decade. His study, part of the Pediatric Molecular and Personalized Medicine Program, includes Tirumalai Rangasamy, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine.

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