AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Smoking

Does Cigarette Smoke Kill Your Eyes’ Cells?

Unknown to most, smoking can lead to blindness and severe vision loss. Smoking is usually tied to causing heart attacks, cancer, and pregnancy complications, but it can also be tied to glaucomas and cataracts. We tend to focus more on the inhalation of cigarette smoke rather than its effect on the surface of the eyes. These surface eye effects occur in inner regions of the eye: the retina, optic nerve, and lens, respectively. Scientists have now discovered that smoke and aerosols from heated tobacco devices also kill cells in the outmost layer of the eye: the cornea. A biomedical researcher from Gifu Pharmaceutical University in Japan named Wataru Otsu said “This is the outermost surface of the eye that is exposed to environmental factors like chemicals, light, and infection,” found in the research article on Scientific American.

Otsu and his colleges performed experiments on corneal cells by exposing them to the smoke of tobacco products for 24-hours. They found that the cells exposed to tobacco smoke died more often than cells that had no exposure. A closer look into the experiment revealed that the cell membrane was damaged due to clumps of iron and an abundance of damaged ferritin: a protein that stores iron needed for DNA synthesis and division. Ferritin is the level of iron in the blood that allows doctors to see whether you have a high or low level of iron. When the cells were exposed to tobacco in high amounts, the signs of damage caused the cell to a programmed cell death driven by iron called ferroptosis.

The effect of tobacco products on the corneal cells leads to ferritin inside the cell starting to break down. When this occurs stored iron begins to be released. The iron will then bunch together and start to react with naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide. Normally the cells’ repair system can cope, but when too many are formed at the same time, they damage the fat in is the phospholipid bilayer, it triggering the lysosomes to explode and causing the cell to die. The breakage of the lipid cell membrane causes the nucleus of the cell to send signals to the lysosomes to start the break down the cell. Eventually, a mass amount of cells in the cornea will break down and begin to make the person go blind.

Though the study proved that smoke from tobacco products is harmful to the corneal cells it cannot be determined how fast the effects can take place. Since the study was on corneal cells rather than a live eye, scientists are unable to predict how fast these cells will self-destruct in a human eye. The next step for this is to conduct experiments on animals involving vaping and the harmful effects it may have. Do you think it will have the same effects?

Cell cytoskeletton

Are E-Cigarettes Worth the Hype???

In America, electronic cigarettes are all the rage as they come in a wide range of flavors and intricate and discreet devices. Yes, they are less harmful than regular cigarettes but do they have the ability to make the users quit smoking altogether? This is the question that the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina aimed to answer.

In this study, 68 smokers were evaluated over four months. 46 were randomly selected to use different e-cigarettes however they wished and the other 22 were in a control group where they could only use the e-cigarette as instructed. All were either given a device with low amounts of nicotine or high amounts (like the one pictured above). After the four months and the study was complete, the results were as expected.

Published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the 46 smokers who could freely use the e-cigarettes had a seemingly positive response to them. With  high frequent usage, the majority purchased their own electronic cigarettes and ditched the regular traditional cigarettes they used to smoke. They also were more likely to quit smoking overall compared to those in the control group. Additionally in the control group, since the smokers were confined to only to using the e-cigs when instructed, it only increased their urge to go back to non-electronic cigarettes. Also stated in the article, “Of the two e-cigarette models used in the study, the more powerful device, with a higher dose of nicotine, showed stronger outcomes. People using e-cigarettes throughout the study smoked an average of 37 percent fewer cigarettes, showing a positive effect when making the switch and potentially serving as a tool to help smokers quit.” This shows that e-cigs can make a difference, especially with a higher amount of nicotine. Lead researcher Matthew Carpenter was happy with the positive response and people who switched to e-cigs since smoking traditional cigarettes is the leading cause of cancer.

Don’t get it twisted, electronic cigarettes are still harmful!!!  Yes they are safer than the conventional cigarette but they still expose the lungs and body to harmful toxins and chemicals that we all know should not be there. Especially with the variety of flavors, sizes, and customizable appearances of these devices (pictured below), they are now made specifically to target adolescents. Big companies create a product crafted to draw more and more adolescents in, with the sole purpose of making money at the expense of the consumer’s health. Terrible! So ask yourself, will you fall for it? (DON’T!!!)

Wait… Smoking is bad for you???

Thinking back, it’s pretty hard to believe that at one point most people thought smoking was good for you. Up until about 60 years ago, advertisements preached that smoking cigarettes was not only the cool thing to do, but was also in some ways beneficial for your health.


Cigarette ads used doctors and scientists to preach that smoking helped alleviate social anxiety, dry mouth, colds, and headaches. Although in some cases the menthol used in many cigarettes did have a positive effect on cold symptoms, in many cases the ill symptoms were caused by smoking withdrawal itself. (i.e. social anxiety and headaches)

To much of 1940’s doctors’ demise, enumerable amounts of studies have come out proving that smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer, gum cancer, tongue cancer, throat cancer, and most of all emphysema. Now, the tobacco is not always the cause of all these diseases; all the other fun chemicals that the cigarette companies put in the cigs to “enhance the experience” and help them burn faster, are the culprits. Just a few of the chemicals in modern cigarettes are as follows:

Acetone = commonly found in nail polish and many paint removers

Ammonia = highly toxic; usually found in household cleaners

Arsenic = found most in rat poisons

Butane = found in lighter fluid (helps cigarette to burn faster)

Cadmium = component of battery acid

Carbon Monoxide = found in car exhaust fumes

Formaldehyde = embalming fluid (used to preserve dead bodies)

Need I go on? Okay!

Lead = decreases function and activity of the nervous system (brain, spine, etc.)

Methanol = main component of rocket fuel

Nicotine = main component of insecticide but has a very addicting side-effect

Tar = used for paving roads

Toluene = found in dynamite (TNT = Tri-Nitro Toluene)


It is obvious to me why cigarette companies have stopped running their ads that depict doctors, scientists, teachers and other professions often lauded as some of the most intelligent in society, smoking and promoting cigarettes. Even so, what troubles me, is how 17% of America’s population still chooses to smoke. With 8% of that 17% being teenagers, the number of smokers has steadily declined over the years, but not at a rate rapid enough. The common sense that goes behind just not smoking is maddening to those who watch smokers constantly spending $15 (NY) per pack.

PS: Up until 1978, Camel Cigarettes actually contained minute particles of camel. The company used the fat because it burned very quickly, was odorless, and gave the cigarette a more mild taste.

Original Article:

Information on Emphysema:

Lung Cancer Facts:


Third-hand Smoke Can Lead to Severe Medical Problems

Recently great attention has been given to the dangers of smoking. We all know the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, however few know what third-hand smoke is or what it does. Third-hand smoke is the debris from cigarettes that lingers both in the air, and on objects giving off a foul odor. It is now coming to our attention that it is far more dangerous than we originally thought. Studies are showing that the inhalation can lead to health risks associated with routine smoking. In fact third-hand smoke may cause 60% of the damage that regular smoking creates. The toxins left behind by a smoker are even shown to stay in the area for nearly 18 hours. It is important for us to give greater attention to the effects of third-hand smoke in order to protect our health, and the health of those around smokers.

We All Owe Mice a “thank you”

Recently in our AP Biology class, we read about advances in stem cell research. Important developments began with experiments involving mice. The scientists were able to generate induced pluripotent stem cells from mouse fibroblasts and were later able to generate iPS cells from human fibroblasts . The research as been extremely helpful and scientists were able to learn a lot through the mice cells. It turns out mice are useful for many other avenues of medical research.

Mice have become a critical tool in the quest for new drugs and medical treatments because their genes are remarkably similar to a person’s”. Mice affected with various human ailments, such as “obesity, diabetes, cancer and countless other conditions are being used to study both the illnesses themselves and potential treatments”.

photo from WikimediaCommons









The latest “mouse sacrifice” for society involves cigarette smoke. We know that cigarette smoke heavily damages the lungs but scientists and doctors have long wondered what it does to the brain. There is an established, but “murky”, relationship between cigarette smoking and Alzheimer’s. A recent study with mice inhaling cigarette smoke significantly strengthened the suggested relationship.

Scientists led by Claudio Soto of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston exposed mice to cigarette smoke for four months. These exposed mice all showed signs of Alzheimer’s. Additionally, mice were bred with Alzheimer’s and then later exposed to cigarette smoke. These mice exhibited significantly worsened Alzheimer’s symptoms.

This sort of research proves extremely beneficial to humans and will most likely continue to become even more popular. Already, there are as many as 25 million mice used for medical research each year.

It seems as though we will have many mice to thank in the future.


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Pass Me My E-Cigarette Please…

First the world switched from cd’s to iPods, and then books to e-books. This time we’re ditching the cigarettes and buying E-Cigarettes.

Photo Credit: momentimedia

A new invention that is gaining popularity throughout the world is E-Cigarettes. E-Cigarettes is a fake cigarette that when you treat it like a normal cigarette and take a breath from it, releases nicotine vapors into your body. It is designed to rival the experience of an actual cigarette, while still promoting a healthier option. But is it actually healthy? In this article, scientists and other advocates of cigarette abstinence say no.

Traditionally, the usual ways of quitting smoking can vary from cold turkey to using FDA approved products that also include Nicotine gum. However, these E-Cigarettes have been shown to dramatically aid the quiting process, as seen in a study done by the University of Catania. “After six months, more than half the subjects in Dr. Polosa’s experiment had cut their regular cigarette consumption by at least 50 percent. Nearly a quarter had stopped altogether.” 

Not everyone is so thrilled by E-Cigarette success. The FDA, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Action on Smoking and Health, and the Center for Tobacco-Free Kids have banded together against E-Cigarettes. “They argue that the devices, like smokeless tobacco, reduce the incentive for people to quit nicotine and could also be a “gateway” for young people and nonsmokers to become nicotine addicts. And they cite an F.D.A. warning that several chemicals in the vapor of e-cigarettes may be “harmful” and “toxic.””

In many ways E-Cigarette science must still be studied, along with the potential harms it could have on someone’s body. However the incentives to encourage the use of E-Cigarettes instead of normal Cigarettes are clear: “On a scale of harm from 1 to 100, where nicotine gums and lozenges are 1 and cigarettes are 100, he estimated that e-cigarettes are no higher than 2.” 

So what do you think? Should major anti-smoking agencies oppose this potentially safer cigarette substitute? Do you think that smoking is okay? How do you think people should quit if they choose to do so?

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