Hot on the trail of a scourge
Thursday, November 7, 2019
Irfan Rahman might be area smoke shops’ best customer.
In the last few years, Rahman has haunted local smoke shops, amassing what might the largest collection of vaping devices and supplies in the state. It could conceivably be a contender for the country’s largest collection.
In a recent visit to Elite, a Henrietta vape shop and cigar store, Rahman barked rapid-fire orders directing store co-owner Gibran Mehta to add scores of oils to a mounting pile of vaping products as Mehta described the various flavorings and nicotine content of oils, taking occasional hits off an e-cigarette as he worked.
Despite his loyal patronage, Irfan laments, a couple of the smoke shops he frequents temporarily banned him.
“It was when they noticed this,” says Rahman, holding out a tag dangling from a lanyard he wears around his neck. The tag identifies him as a URMC research scientist. Putting two and two together, he explains, some shop owners began to suspect that Rahman, a non-smoker and no fan of vaping, might be using his trove of vaping supplies to make a case against vaping.
Shop owners who banned him have now relented, but their fears are far from unfounded.
Vaping involves inhalation of nicotine or the cannabis-derived substances THC and CBD in a cloud of vapor rather than in smoke produced by “combustibles” like cigarettes, cigars or pipes. In vaping, a handheld, battery-operated device heats an oil emulsion containing nicotine, THC or CBD.
At URMC, Rahman heads a laboratory that is delving into vaping’s possible ill effects. He also is part of a joint URMC-Roswell Park team working under a 2018 $19 million National Institutes of Health grant to study the effects of flavored tobacco. He is working with New York’s Department of Health too.
Projects Rahman is currently leading include an investigation into the toxicology of flavored e-cigarettes and toxicity of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes. Read More: Hot on the trail of a scourge
Study: Vaping Causes Lung Damage in Just 3 Days of Use
Thursday, November 7, 2019
According to a new study by researchers at The Lundquist Institute and the University of Rochester, e-cigarette or vaping use can damage the lungs after as little as 3 days of use.Read More: Study: Vaping Causes Lung Damage in Just 3 Days of Use
The study involved male and female mice that were exposed to aerosols vaped from e-cigarettes using propylene glycol as the “carrier fluid.” Every day, the mice were exposed to the aerosols for 2 hours over the course of 3 days.
Sufficient damage to the lungs was seen in the mice after being exposed to the aerosols for 3 days, setting the stage for long-term chronic lung damage, according to the study authors. The damage occurred both with e-cigarettes containing nicotine and the propylene glycol carrier fluid.
The results also showed that more inflammatory responses to e-cigarettes containing both propylene glycol and nicotine occurred in female mice. The researchers suggested that women might be more vulnerable to negative health impacts from vaping.
In addition, the study provided novel insights to the lung damaging effects of vaping. This analysis was the first report of acute exposure to e-cigarette aerosol containing polyethylene glycol alone inducing oxidative stress in lungs. Vaping does not have to occur over a long period of time to be harmful, the researchers concluded.
University of Rochester Researchers Discuss Vaping-Related Lung Injury on the Today Show
Thursday, October 31, 2019
University of Rochester Environmental Health Sciences Center members Daniel Croft, M.D., M.P.H., and Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., were featured on a Today Show segement about vaping-related lung injury. In the segment, Rahman is shown working in his lab while Croft discussed the symptoms associated with this condition.
Rahman uses cell, mouse, and human studies to investigate how flavoring chemicals used in vaping devices affect lung health. He also analyzes vaping liquid collected from patients and hospitals around the world to better understand its chemical makeup. Croft, a clinician researcher who focuses on inhalation toxicology, helps interpret the clinical relevance of findings from the lab and collaborates on a study to better understand respiratory effects in people who vape.Read More: University of Rochester Researchers Discuss Vaping-Related Lung Injury on the Today Show
Vaping chains sue State, research continues at UR Medical Center
Friday, September 27, 2019
Unlawful. That’s what the Vapor Technology Association and two chain stores are saying on the state ban on flavored e-cigarettes. They are asking the court to put the ban on hold while the case is litigated.
The first complaint was that it didn’t go through the state legislature.
“Their second claim was the rapid way this was passed. One day’s notice,” lawyer Alan Knauf of Knauf Shaw Law Offices said.
Knauf says in the complaint, a big highlight was illegal THC cartridges that contain Vitamin E. The State Vapor Association and others say that’s what’s causing the deaths and health issues, not the regulated vaping flavors in stores.
“It’s irrational to make this fast move without a scientific basis and basically shut down all these shops,” Knauf said while phrasing the complaint.
At the University of Rochester Medical Center, they are getting down to the science behind the harmful effects of vaping. The idea that dangerous ingredients are only in illegal vaping products is being put to the test.
“(Vaping products) contain various chemicals, and there are hundreds of chemicals, and they are nasty chemicals,” Dr. Irfan Rahman, a pulmonologist with the University of Rochester Medical Center, said.
Rahman said they’re well aware of the Vitamin E components in some of the products; he says they clog up airways.
“It’s like a ‘bacon greasy stuff’ in the lungs,” Rahman said.
Rahman said they’ve identified two additional potentially harmful ingredients. What they are will be released in their vaping studies to the state.
In other studies, the American Lung Association has said that “e-cigarettes are not safe,” but the American Cancer Society has said they’re “likely to be significantly less harmful,” than traditional cigarettes.Read More: Vaping chains sue State, research continues at UR Medical Center
E-cigarette ban throws researchers into limbo
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Irfan Rahman's laboratory sits at the end of a long hallway on the third floor of the University of Rochester's School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Inside, Rahman and a team of researchers take apart e-cigarettes. They analyze liquids that the devices turn into an inhalable vapor to try to figure out exactly what they're made of.
The lab's work has taken on growing importance as the number of deaths and injuries attributed to e-cigarettes across the country continues to rise.
"We are the national leaders in this research," Rahman said. "We are doing work here that can save lives. These are very, very grave health problems."
But their ability to do that has been thrown into question by New York state's ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Specifically, the state's emergency regulations ban the possession of flavored e-cigarette liquids, with no exception for researchers.
URMC shares a $19 million federal grant with the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo that funds the institutions' research into e-cigarettes. It's an emerging field that investigators said aims to discern how flavored tobacco products affect the body and mind.
The realization that the rules did not carve out an exception for researchers led the CEOs of URMC and Roswell Park to send a joint letter to Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, urging him to allow their research to continue.
"This is the first ever federally funded research to look at flavored tobacco in such a comprehensive and systematic way," the CEOs wrote. "The outcomes of these studies will have significant implications for public health nationally."Read More: E-cigarette ban throws researchers into limbo
New York’s e-cigarette ban throws URMC research into question
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Irfan Rahman’s laboratory sits at the end of a long hallway on the third floor of the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Inside, Rahman and a team of researchers take apart e-cigarettes. They analyze the liquid that the devices turn into an inhalable vapor in an effort to figure out exactly what it’s made of.
The lab’s work has taken on growing importance as the number of deaths and injuries attributed to e-cigarettes across the country continues to rise.
“We are the national leaders in this research,” Rahman said. “We are doing work here that can save lives. These are very, very grave health problems.”
But New York state’s action to ban flavored e-cigarettes last week threw their ability to do that research into question.
The state’s emergency regulations ban possession of flavored e-cigarette liquids, with no exemption for research.
URMC shares a $19 million federal grant with the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo that funds the institutions’ research into e-cigarettes. It’s an emerging field that investigators said is designed around questions of how flavored tobacco products affect the body and mind.
The realization that the rules did not carve out an exception for researchers led the CEOs of Roswell Park and URMC to send a joint letter to Howard Zucker, the commissioner of the state health department, urging him to allow their research to continue.Read More: New York’s e-cigarette ban throws URMC research into question
Drs. Rahman and Croft Featured on NBC News Story
Friday, September 6, 2019
Professor of Environmental Medicine, Dr. Irfan Rahman and Assistant Professor of Medicine, Dr. Daniel Croft were interviewed September 5th by NBC News about recent hospitalizations related to e-cigarettes. The story highlighted URMC e-cigarette research, along with pulmonary and critical care at SMH.
The story is expected to air during the second half of Nightly News with Lester Holt on September 5th, and September 6th on the Today Show. It will feature a patient in Utah who suffered serious lung damage after vaping THC, along with Irfan’s explanation of e-cigarette research during his lab tour with Anne, and Dan’s interview about Strong’s response to the recent outbreak of vaping-related illnesses.
Congratulations to Dr. Rahman and Dr. Croft!Read More: Drs. Rahman and Croft Featured on NBC News Story
Health advisory urges caution with e-cigarettes
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
A health advisory from the federal Centers for Disease Control has linked e-cigarettes to severe respiratory problems, though the agency said the exact cause is still unclear.
The CDC urged people to avoid using e-cigarette products bought from unlicensed sellers, citing health effects that researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center said reflect a poorly regulated industry.
Irfan Rahman, who directs research into e-cigarettes at URMC, said the severity of the cases outpaced what he expected.
“We were anticipating some responses, but not to this extent. This is very surprising to us, actually, what happened,” Rahman said.
Some cases of pneumonia treated locally have been so severe that patients needed to be placed on a ventilator or have a breathing tube inserted into their throat, said Rahman.
A team at URMC is looking into how e-cigarettes sold in the Rochester area differ from those sold in other markets. Researchers are seeking to discern how exactly e-cigarettes sold locally are affecting people in greater Rochester.
“We buy locally,” Rahman said. “I am well-known in the shops.”
Rahman said his team has over 800 local e-cigarettes to analyze in the lab.Read More: Health advisory urges caution with e-cigarettes
EHSC Faculty Attend 2019 Center Directors Meeting in Iowa City
Friday, June 21, 2019
The 2019 EHSC Center Directors Meeting was hosted by the University of Iowa in Iowa City on June 20, 21, 2019. University of Rochester’s Environmental Health Sciences Center faculty, Irfan Rahman, PhD, CEC Director Katrina Korfmacher, PhD, IHSFC Co-Director Steve Georas, MD, Center Director Paige Lawrence, PhD, and new Center member Daniel Croft, MD, MPH, as well as Center Administrator Pat Noonan Sullivan attended the meeting.
Each faculty member played a role in the meeting, contributing expertise of their work. Rahman spoke on Human health studies of E-cigarette use at the meeting. Discussants included Dana Haine, MS from UNC and Judith Zelikoff, PhD, from NYU, moderated by Alejandro Comellas, MD. Katrina Korfmacher facilitated sessions on policy engagement by CECs and report back of research results to participants and communities. At a break out session on translational research in environmental health sciences, Georas shared the centers experience with the highly successful IHSFC Translational Mini-Pilot Program. Croft presented a poster on his research showing an association between air pollution exposure and hospital admissions for respiratory viral infections.
The 2020 EHSC Center Directors Meeting will be hosted by Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan July 22nd- 24th, 2020.
Rahman is a Leader in the Field of Environmental and Tobacco-related Lung Diseases
Monday, May 6, 2019
Irfan Rahman Designated an American Thoracic Society Fellow
The American Thoracic Society (ATS) designated Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., an ATS Fellow for his research on chronic lung inflammatory diseases. ATS awarded Rahman this distinction to recognize his accomplishments, dedication, and contributions to ATS and to the field of pulmonary medicine. Rahman is an endowed Dean’s professor of environmental medicine, pulmonary medicine, and public health sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and a member of the URMC Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC).
Since joining the URMC in 2003, Rahman has gained international recognition for his research on the prevention and treatment of smoking-induced lung diseases and has published more than 250 papers. Thomson Reuters, a news and information publishing company, recognized him as one of the most highly cited researchers of 2014, 2015, and 2016. He has been a leader in elucidating mechanisms of environmental and tobacco-related pulmonary diseases.
Rahman has also been elected to serve on boards of several esteemed academic journals including Nature Scientific Report, the Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Experimental Lung Research, Journal of Inflammation, and Frontiers in Pharmacology, where he is an associate editor. With ATS, he has served as a program committee member and as chair for numerous symposia sessions on lung disease research. Through community education efforts, Rahman has also educated people about the dangers of smoking and other exposures in India, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Rahman credits the EHSC with driving the development of his research programs in circadian biology, chromatin remodeling, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, inflammation, and oxidants related to the impacts of environmental agents, flavoring chemicals in e-cigarettes, and tobacco products on lung pathology. He noted that the EHSC provided him critical support to generate preliminary data that helped him secure additional funding for his research.
One area of Rahman’s research focuses on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), considered the third major cause of death worldwide. Among cigarette smokers and people who live in polluted areas, COPD is a major factor in declining lung function, and there are no effective treatments to halt this decline. Rahman’s team is identifying specific cellular and molecular pathways that contribute to COPD. He hopes to uncover pathways that may be targeted for treatments and interventions to slow the disease process.
Recently, Rahman has discovered several exciting potential therapies that may prevent tobacco-related lung complications from progressing. For example, in an experimental COPD model in mice, Rahman’s team exposed mice to environmental tobacco smoke and then measured DNA damage and cellular senescence, which is when cells cease to divide due to aging. They compared normal mice to genetically altered mice lacking the gene for histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2), an enzyme that affects DNA structure and gene expression. They found that mice lacking HDAC2 showed greater DNA damage-induced inflammatory responses and lung function declines after exposure to cigarette smoke. In addition, mice lacking HDAC2 had increased markers of cellular senescence. Based on these data, Rahman suggests that compounds that activate HDAC2 might be useful for treatment of smoking-related lung diseases like COPD.
Over the years Rahman has successfully mentored several Ph.D. students and postdoctoral and clinical fellows. He considers the accomplishments of his trainees one of the most important testaments of his scientific and academic accomplishments in pulmonary research.
Rahman’s research is supported by the following grants from NIH: R21ES028006 (NIEHS), R01HL135613 (NHLBI), R01HL137738 (NHLBI), R01DA042470 (NIDA), and U54CA228110 (NCI).Read More: Rahman is a Leader in the Field of Environmental and Tobacco-related Lung Diseases
Rahman Named One of the Founding Chairs of the Lung Aging Research Group of ATS
Friday, May 3, 2019
Congratulations to Dr. Irfan Rahman, who has been named one of the Founding Chairs of the Lung Aging Research Group of the American Thoracic Society.
Irfan Rahman, PhD, ATSF
GR Scott Budinger, MD
Louise Hecker, Ph.D
Our main goal is to increase our awareness and disseminate knowledge of the pathophysiological mechanisms of aging in the lungs with interests in terms of basic biology of aging in debilitating lung diseases including critical care and geriatric aging. We aim to thus contribute to the larger mission of the current Interesting Group of Aging.
This group will bring together lung researchers (including early career members, MDs, MD-PhDs, and PhDs) who are interested in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of aging and age-related lung diseases, and forms a forum for discussion on hallmarks of lung aging and associated diseases.
- To increase the knowledge of the physiological and accelerated mechanisms of aging in the lungs in collaboration with clinical and critical care geriatric disciplines
- To enhance overall visibility and advance the knowledge of aging of the lung and mechanisms of age-related lung diseases
- To target age-associated dysfunction: Advancing knowledge of age-associated therapeutic targets that may promote enhanced repair
Read More: Rahman Named One of the Founding Chairs of the Lung Aging Research Group of ATS
- To highlight the impact on global health burden of age-associated lung diseases e.g. environmental aspect of aging (biomass, wildfire, ashes, diesel exhausts) in all population including geriatric.
- Age-related diseases development and therapeutic targeting age
- Dissemination of knowledge by including NIA and NHLBI researchers including critical care research programs
NYS Lawmakers vote to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 - Rahman Lab interviewed
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Lawmakers in the New York state Assembly have voted to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21.
The legislation, which passed the Democrat-led chamber on Wednesday, prohibits the sale of tobacco, as well as electronic cigarettes, to anyone under 21.
"I always thought that we were going to be the generation to stop smoking and then all of these new products came out and we are at step one," said Monica Jackson, a research assistant at the University of Rochester.
She said she doesn't smoke, but some of her friends do.
"I think just educating people and putting it in their heads this is not good for us," she added.
Jackson is part of a team of researchers at the university, including Dr. Irfan Rahman. Dr. Rahman has been helping conduct a study on the impacts of smoking and vaping for more than 10 years. Some of his work has also been published.
"This is really bad for high schoolers and middle schoolers when their lungs are developing, and if they vape it's interfering with lung development," he explained.
When asked about raising the age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes, Dr. Rahman said it won't do much.
"The problem will never be solved by increasing the age. Overall it will not address the issue of toxicity and diseases," he said.
Throughout the years, Dr. Rahman says he's studied the evolution of different products to consume tobacco and nicotine.
When it comes to research on Juul products, he said, "we found metals such as copper, we published a paper, we found lung injuries, inflammation and stress in the lungs."
The elevated smoking age is already the law in seven states, and several cities around the country, including New York City.
Some people think passing such a law is going too far.
"The idea for them to choose when they finish high school when they become adults it's more applicable, so i think 19 would be more of an applicable age," said James McGuinness a Rochester resident.
Brandon Barr is the manager of Exscape Smoke Shop and Vapor Lounge. He said the age of 21 at least is giving you more life experience, and more of a chance to educate yourself about the thing you want to do.
He said if the law is passed, it likely won't impact his business directly.
"I think convenience stores and things like that probably will because they have more of a high customer volume," he added.
Barr said the topic of education should be at the center of this debate. He said he works to educate all of his customers about what they are buying.
"Some of these very high level nicotine juices if you were to put them in certain kinds of vapes it can put so much nicotine into you - you could get sick," he said.
The measure is backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and has broad support in the Democrat-controlled state Senate, where it has yet to be scheduled for a vote.
Cuomo released a statement after the Assembly passed the bill.
"The lifelong health effects and human misery caused by tobacco use cannot be understated and New York needs to do everything in its power to keep tobacco products out of the hands of our young people. That's why I made raising the age of tobacco sales to 21 one of the first proposals of my Justice Agenda and I applaud the Assembly and particularly Assembly Member Rosenthal for taking action on this very important issue today. I urge the Senate to follow suit and help make this a stronger and healthier New York for all."
Julie Hart of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network called the measure "common sense" and said it will reduce the number of young people who become addicted.Read More: NYS Lawmakers vote to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 - Rahman Lab interviewed
URMC Study reveals uptake of Vaping flavors among teenagers - Dr. Rahman Interviewed by Channel 8
Friday, March 1, 2019
Vaping flavors may be appealing for the eye and may taste better than smoking cigarettes. But a new study out of the University of Rochester found that vaping is starting to grow in popularity among teenagers.
According to Dr. Rahman, the study also shows an alarming uptake of vaping among youth which could lead to serious health problems later in life.
The study showed just last year vaping among 6th to 8th graders increased 48 percent and 9th to 12th graders in increased to 78 percent. Doctors said the lungs are still developing during those school years
"Be defective development, and after the development is complete, then it could lead to complications,” said Dr. Rahman.
Nowadays e-cigarettes are shaped like a USB flash drive and are easy to conceal. Dr. Rahman says the liquids come in flavors that appeal to youth and can be easily bought online.
“Have to be alerted that these are toxic chemicals in here,” said Rahman. “Smoking or vaping should completely be abolished.”
There is currently a “flavor ban” legislation that could eliminate vaping flavors. For those who support flavors say thousands will return to combustible cigarettes, people would lose jobs and its mainly for adults.
"I switched from combustible cigarettes to flavors. they tasted better more appetizing to use and more enjoyable. Ultimately the studies are showing that no more than 5 percent of long term health effects that's what got me to switch from combustible cigarettes personally,” said Ken Gregory, owner of Bad Drip Labs.
According to Gregory, his business isn’t about getting teens to use their products. He added the industry is made for adults and teens shouldn’t be vaping. Read More: URMC Study reveals uptake of Vaping flavors among teenagers - Dr. Rahman Interviewed by Channel 8
New Study Links Electronic Cigarettes and Wheezing in Adults
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Electronic cigarette use (“vaping”) is associated with wheezing in adults, according to a new study published in the journal Tobacco Control. People who vaped were nearly twice as likely to experience wheezing compared to people who didn’t regularly use tobacco products. Wheezing, which is caused by narrowed or abnormal airways, is often a precursor to other serious health conditions such as emphysema, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, heart failure, lung cancer and sleep apnea.
“The take-home message is that electronic cigarettes are not safe when it comes to lung health,” says Ossip, a tobacco research expert and professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). “The changes we’re seeing with vaping, both in laboratory experiments and studies of people who vape, are consistent with early signs of lung damage, which is very worrisome.”
Researchers from URMC analyzed data from more than 28,000 adults in the U.S. who took part in the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study. After adjusting for age, gender, race/ethnicity, body mass index, secondhand smoke exposure and other factors, adult vapers were 1.7 times more likely to experience wheezing and related respiratory symptoms (such as difficulty breathing) compared to non-users.
Lead study author Dongmei Li, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Clinical and Translational Research at URMC, acknowledges that there are limitations to the study. PATH study data are self-reported, so it’s possible that information collected from participants is subject to recall bias. The analysis cannot prove that vaping causes wheezing; it only identifies an association between the two. Finally, PATH data does not include information on some important factors that could influence the results, such as participants’ diet and physical activity levels.
Despite these limitations, senior study author Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Medicine at URMC, says the research clearly identifies another health repercussion from vaping. This is particularly concerning given new data released from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that shows a dramatic uptick in youth vaping. According to the report, in 2018 vaping increased by 78 percent among ninth to 12th graders and 48 percent in sixth to eighth graders.Read More: New Study Links Electronic Cigarettes and Wheezing in Adults