In vitro consequences of electronic-cigarette flavoring exposure on the immature lung

Sara K. Berkelhamer, Justin M. Helman, Sylvia F. Gugino, Noel J. Leigh, Satyan Lakshminrusimha, Maciej L. Goniewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: The developing lung is uniquely susceptible and may be at increased risk of injury with exposure to e-cigarette constituents. We hypothesize that cellular toxicity and airway and vascular responses with exposure to flavored refill solutions may be altered in the immature lung. Methods: Fetal, neonatal, and adult ovine pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMC) were exposed to popular flavored nicotine-free e-cigarette refill solutions (menthol, strawberry, tobacco, and vanilla) and unflavored solvents: propylene glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerin (VG). Viability was assessed by lactate dehydrogenase assay. Brochodilation and vasoreactivity were determined on isolated ovine bronchial rings (BR) and pulmonary arteries (PA). Results: Neither PG or VG impacted viability of immature or adult cells; however, exposure to menthol and strawberry flavored solutions increased cell death. Neonatal cells were uniquely susceptible to menthol flavoring-induced toxicity, and all four flavorings demonstrated lower lethal doses (LD50) in immature PASMC. Exposure to flavored solutions induced bronchodilation of neonatal BR, while only menthol induced airway relaxation in adults. In contrast, PG/VG and flavored solutions did not impact vasoreactivity with the exception of menthol-induced relaxation of adult PAs. Conclusion: The immature lung is uniquely susceptible to cellular toxicity and altered airway responses with exposure to common flavored e-cigarette solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3635
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Electronic cigarette flavorings
  • Electronic cigarettes
  • Immature lung
  • Lung development
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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