The sales pitch for electronic cigarettes is that they don’t involve any harmful smoke, but the nicotine they deliver is still a matter of concern for health. In new research presented at the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting in New Orleans Dec. 15, Chi-Ming Hai, professor of medical science at Brown University, described a connection between the addictive chemical and atherosclerosis. In lab experiments, Hai observed that nicotine promotes the formation of invasive structures in vascular smooth muscle cells that damage them in a way that can potentially promote plaque formation in atherosclerosis. “Altogether the data from the studies of rat and primary human vascular smooth muscle cells suggest that nicotine enhances vascular smooth muscle cell invasion by activating synergistic mechanisms between the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor and Protein Kinase C signaling,” according to an ASCB press release about the work. Hai is in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology.

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