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Study: E-cigarettes trigger inflammation in the gut

Touted by makers as a “healthy” alternative to traditional nicotine cigarettes, new research indicates the chemicals found in e-cigarettes disrupt the gut barrier and trigger inflammation in the body, potentially leading to a variety of health concerns.

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Touted by makers as a “healthy” alternative to traditional nicotine cigarettes, new research indicates the chemicals found in e-cigarettes disrupt the gut barrier and trigger inflammation in the body, potentially leading to a variety of health concerns.

In the study, published in the journal iScience, Soumita Das, PhD, associate professor of pathology, and Pradipta Ghosh, MD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues, found that chronic use of nicotine-free e-cigarettes led to a “leaky gut,” in which microbes and other molecules seep out of the intestines, resulting in chronic inflammation. Such inflammation can contribute to a variety of diseases and conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, dementia, certain cancers, atherosclerosis, liver fibrosis, diabetes and arthritis.

“The gut lining is an amazing entity. It is comprised of a single layer of cells that are meant to seal the body from the trillions of microbes, defend our immune system, and at the same time allow absorption of essential nutrients,” said Ghosh. “Anything we eat or drink, our lifestyle choices in other words, has the ability to impact our gut microbes, the gut barrier and overall health. Now we know that what we smoke, such as e-cigarettes, negatively impacts it as well.”

The researchers found that two chemicals used as a base for all e-cigarette liquid vapor — propylene glycol and vegetable glycerol — were the cause of inflammation.

“Numerous chemicals are created when these two are heated to generate the fumes in vaping that cause the most damage, for which there are no current regulations,” said Ghosh. “The safety of e-cigarettes have been debated fiercely on both sides. Nicotine content, and its addictive nature, has always been the major focus of those who argue against its safety, whereas lack of chemicals in the carcinogens that are present in the cigarette smoke has been touted by the makers of e-cigarettes when marketing these products as a ‘healthy alternative.’ In reality, it’s the chemicals making up the vapor liquid that we should be more concerned about as they are the cause of gut inflammation.”

For the study, the team used 3D models of human intestinal tracts generated from patient cells and simulated what happens when e-cigarette vapors enter the gut lining. Researchers validated the findings using mice models of vaping in collaboration with Laura Crotty-Alexander, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and section chief of Pulmonary Critical Care at Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

To produce the 3D gut organoids, the researchers collected stem cells from patients’ biopsies during colonoscopies and grew them in vitro. The stem cells differentiated into the four different cell types that make up the gut lining. The team then exposed the organoids to e-cigarette liquid vapor, mimicking the frequency of a chronic vaper.

They noted that epithelial tight conjunction markers, which are zipper-like proteins that form the gut’s first physical barrier, began to break or loosen, causing pathogens from the vapor to seep into the surrounding immune system, wreaking havoc on protective epithelial cells that lie just beneath.

Such cells act as a defense against infection by clearing pathogenic microbes and initiating certain immune responses in the body. When exposed to the e-cigarette liquid, the cells were quickly overwhelmed, unable to effectively clear pathogens, resulting in gut inflammation.

The study is part of the HUMANOID Center of Research Excellence, a core facility based at UC San Diego School of Medicine led by Ghosh and Das who was senior author of the study. Scientists at the center use a variety of human organoids and other tools to model diseases and effects.

“This is the first study that demonstrates how chronic exposure to e-cigarettes increases the gut’s susceptibility to bacterial infections, leading to chronic inflammation and other health concerns,” said Das. “Given the importance of the gut barrier in the maintenance of the body’s immune homeostasis, the findings provide valuable insight into the potential long-term harmful effects chronic use of e-cigarettes on our health.”

Ghosh said damage to the gut lining may be reversible over time if the inciting factor, in this case e-cigarette use, is eliminated, but the effects of chronic inflammation upon other organs, such as the heart or brain, may be irreversible. In the future, Ghosh said she and colleagues plan to look at different flavorings of e-cigarettes to determine what effects they might have on the gut.

Additional study co-authors include: Aditi Sharma, Jasper Lee, Ayden G. Fonseca, Alex Moshensky, Taha Kothari, Ibrahim M. Sayed, Stella-Rita Ibeawuchi, Rama F. Pranadinata, Jason Ear, and Debashis Sahoo, all at UC San Diego.

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Alsons Dev welcomes The Abba’s Orchard to Avia Estate

The country’s largest and most esteemed network of authentic Montessori schools, The Abba’s Orchard, breaks ground on June 14 for its 15th campus located in Avia Estate, a township project in Alabel, Sarangani by Alsons Development and Investment Corporation (Alsons Dev).

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The country’s largest and most esteemed network of authentic Montessori schools, The Abba’s Orchard, breaks ground on June 14 for its 15th campus located in Avia Estate, a township project in Alabel, Sarangani by Alsons Development and Investment Corporation (Alsons Dev).

The expansion reflects the school’s mission of “Discover True Montessori Philippines,” offering high-quality education in the SOCCSKSARGEN Region—a mission that aligns with Alsons Dev’s vision to offer vibrant live-work-play-learn communities where families and businesses can thrive. Recognizing this shared purpose, Alsons Dev partnered with The Abba’s Orchard, contributing a substantial two hectares of land within Avia Estate to make the school a reality.

“We at Alsons Dev are thrilled to partner with The Abba’s Orchard in bringing this exceptional learning environment to Alabel,” said Miguel Dominguez, Alsons Dev Director. “This collaboration aligns with our commitment to fostering growth and development within SOCCSKSARGEN.”

Discover how Avia Estate can let you live your best life. For more information about Avia Estate, visit facebook.com/AviaEstate.

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Optimism wards off procrastination

While procrastinators often admonish themselves for their “bad habit,” it turns out that their worries for the future are more to blame.

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People with an optimistic outlook on the future are less likely to be severe procrastinators, according to new research at the University of Tokyo. While procrastinators often admonish themselves for their “bad habit,” it turns out that their worries for the future are more to blame. Through a survey of nearly 300 young people, researchers found that those who had a positive view about their stress levels decreasing in the future, compared to the past or present, were less likely to experience severe procrastination. Views on personal well-being didn’t appear to have an effect. Improving people’s outlook and readiness for the future could help them overcome procrastination and achieve a less stressful lifestyle. 

How many times have you made a “to do” list, and although the most important task is at the top, you seem to be working your way up from the bottom or distracted by something else entirely? While we might chide ourselves for procrastinating, sometimes the more we try to overcome it, the more stressed we feel and the cycle continues. That is how it was for graduate student Saya Kashiwakura from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo, so she decided to investigate why.

“I have struggled with procrastination since childhood. I would clean my room when I needed to study for a test and prioritize aikido practice over my postgraduate research. This habit of putting off important tasks has been a constant challenge,” said Kashiwakura. “I wanted to change my behavior, as I realized that I was not confronting the future impact of my actions.”

This inspired Kashiwakura to examine the relationship between procrastination and the procrastinator’s perspective on time, particularly their view of the future. When she began researching procrastination, she was surprised to discover that many more people suffer from it than she had imagined and found it reassuring her problems were not unique.

Previous research has shown that a feature of procrastination is disregard for the future or difficulty linking present actions with future outcomes. However, the reasons for this have been unclear. Kashiwakura and co-author Professor Kazuo Hiraki, also from UTokyo, proposed that it might be because severe procrastinators have a more pessimistic outlook. 

The researchers surveyed 296 participants in Japan in their 20s for their views on stress and well-being, and importantly how these changed over time. This included asking about their experiences from 10 years in the past through to the present, and their expectations for 10 years in the future. From the results, participants were clustered into one of four groups (for example, if they thought their situation would improve or would stay the same), and then each group was divided into severe, middle and low procrastinators. 

“Our research showed that optimistic people — those who believe that stress does not increase as we move into the future — are less likely to have severe procrastination habits,” explained Kashiwakura. “This finding helped me adopt a more light-hearted perspective on the future, leading to a more direct view and reduced procrastination.” 

It was not only the level of stress people experienced, but how their perception of it changed over the 20-year time period discussed, which influenced their procrastination habits. Surprisingly, a relationship wasn’t found between procrastination and negative views on well-being, such as one’s attitude towards oneself, or not yet finding purpose and goals in life.

Using these results, the team wants to develop ways to help people nurture a more optimistic mindset and overcome procrastination. “We hope our findings will be particularly useful in the education sector. We believe that students will achieve better outcomes and experience greater well-being when they can comprehend their procrastination tendencies scientifically, and actively work on improving them, rather than blaming themselves,” said Kashiwakura. 

“Thoughts can change with just a few minutes of watching a video or be shaped by years of accumulation. Our next step is to investigate which approach is appropriate this time, and how we can develop the ‘right’ mindset to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.”

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Study shows how night shift work can raise risk of diabetes, obesity

“When internal rhythms are dysregulated, you have this enduring stress in your system that we believe has long-term health consequences.”

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Just a few days on a night shift schedule throws off protein rhythms related to blood glucose regulation, energy metabolism and inflammation, processes that can influence the development of chronic metabolic conditions.

The finding, from a study led by scientists at Washington State University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, provides new clues as to why night shift workers are more prone to diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders.

“There are processes tied to the master biological clock in our brain that are saying that day is day and night is night and other processes that follow rhythms set elsewhere in the body that say night is day and day is night,” said senior study author Hans Van Dongen, a professor in the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. “When internal rhythms are dysregulated, you have this enduring stress in your system that we believe has long-term health consequences.”

Though more research is needed, Van Dongen said the study shows that these disrupted rhythms can be seen in as little as three days, which suggests early intervention to prevent diabetes and obesity is possible. Such intervention could also help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, which is elevated in night shift workers as well.

Published in the Journal of Proteome Research, the study involved a controlled laboratory experiment with volunteers who were put on simulated night or day shift schedules for three days. Following their last shift, participants were kept awake for 24 hours under constant conditions—lighting, temperature, posture and food intake—to measure their internal biological rhythms without interference from outside influences. 

Blood samples drawn at regular intervals throughout the 24-hour period were analyzed to identify proteins present in blood-based immune system cells. Some proteins had rhythms closely tied to the master biological clock, which keeps the body on a 24-hour rhythm. The master clock is resilient to altered shift schedules, so these protein rhythms didn’t change much in response to the night shift schedule.

However, most other proteins had rhythms that changed substantially in night shift participants compared to the day shift participants.

Looking more closely at proteins involved in glucose regulation, the researchers observed a nearly complete reversal of glucose rhythms in night shift participants. They also found that processes involved in insulin production and sensitivity, which normally work together to keep glucose levels within a healthy range, were no longer synchronized in night shift participants.

The researchers said this effect could be caused by the regulation of insulin trying to undo the glucose changes triggered by the night shift schedule. They said this may be a healthy response in the moment, as altered glucose levels may damage cells and organs, but could be problematic in the long run.

“What we showed is that we can really see a difference in molecular patterns between volunteers with normal schedules and those with schedules that are misaligned with their biological clock,” said Jason McDermott, a computational scientist with PNNL’s Biological Sciences Division. “The effects of this misalignment had not yet been characterized at this molecular level and in this controlled manner before.”

The researchers’ next step will be to study real-world workers to determine whether night shifts cause similar protein changes in long-term shift workers.

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