Pulse 127: THC Additive May Cause Lung Injury from Vaping

11 November 2019
Giulio Prisco

Vaping Smoke

Vitamin E acetate, an additive sometimes used in combination with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may be to blame for recent cases of e-cigarette-related lung injuries. This is according to senior representatives of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CNN reports.

The CDC is now recommending "that people should not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC." The CDC continues, "since the specific compound or ingredient causing lung injury are not yet known, the only way to assure that you are not at risk while the investigation continues is to consider refraining from use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products."

In a commentary, titled: "CDC Started a Vaping Panic, Now It’s Admitting Vitamin E Acetate In Illegal Products Is to Blame," Reason Magazine claims that "Vitamin E acetate is not found in legal e-cigarettes. But it is often used by drug dealers to cut THC vape cartridges in an effort to increase their profits."

"Unfortunately, the CDC has been consistently ambiguous on the question of whether or not commercially available e-cigarettes containing nicotine are responsible for the outbreak," continues Reason. "It is clear they are not responsible."

Before this development, it seemed very likely that vaping products could be banned sooner or later in the US. This is, of course, still a possibility.

I have no doubt that the CDC regulators mean well. But, I think, they should realize that banning such products pushes manufacturing and distribution underground, thus exposing consumers to real danger. Also, were e-cigarettes banned, vapers would probably just go back to conventional cigarettes.

Functional Lungs Grown by Stem Cell Transplant

Researchers at Columbia University have grown fully functional lungs in mouse embryos using transplanted stem cells.

In a study published in Nature Medicine, the researchers report that the transplanted stem cells led to the formation of functional lungs that allowed the mice to live well into adulthood.

It may ultimately be possible, according to the researchers, to use this technique to grow human lungs in animals for patients who need transplants and to study new lung treatments.

New CRISPR Protein Improves Gene Edit Accuracy

Scientists at City University of Hong Kong and Karolinska Institutet have developed a new protein that can help increase the targeting accuracy in the CRISPR genome editing process.

SaCas9-HF is a CRISPR Cas9 variant that has high accuracy in genome-wide targeting in human cells. A research paper published in PNAS describes how the scientists have successfully engineered SaCas9-HF without compromising on-target efficiency.

According to the scientists, this would be useful in humans for future gene therapies that require high precision.

Machine Learning Model Could Map Neural Circuits

Researchers led by Kyoto University have developed a machine learning method that allows scientists to reconstruct neuronal circuitry by measuring signals from the neurons themselves.

The researchers devised an analytical method by applying a Generalized Linear Model to a Cross Correlogram, which records the firing correlation between neurons.

The method, described in a study published in Nature Communications, has the potential to elucidate the difference in neuronal computation in different brain regions.

Cheap Intelligent Meta-Material Could Improve MRI

Researchers at Boston University have developed a low-cost “intelligent” meta-material that could revolutionize magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). It could make the entire MRI process faster, safer, and more accessible to patients around the world.

The new magnetic meta-material is described in a paper published in Advanced Materials.

It is made of simple copper wiring and plastic. When placed beside the body part that is the target of a scan, the new material boosts the energy emitted by the patient's body, improving MRI imaging.

Nanoparticles Deliver Pain Drug to Nerve Cells

Scientists led by New York University have used nanoparticles to deliver a drug called Aprepitant into specific compartments of nerve cells. Aprepitant had previously failed in clinical trials for pain. The new delivery process dramatically increases the drug's ability to treat pain in mice and rats.

A research paper published in Nature Nanotechnology reports that nanoparticle-delivered Aprepitant treated pain in mice and rats more completely and for longer periods than did conventional therapies, including opioids. Moreover, nanoparticle delivery minimized the dose of medication needed to treat the pain, which could be useful in avoiding side effects.

Biologists Reprogram Viruses to Treat Infection

Researchers at ETH Zurich have used synthetic biology to reprogram bacterial viruses, commonly known as bacteriophages, to expand their natural host range.

The researchers, who  reported their findings in Cell Reports, have genetically reprogrammed phages to produce synthetic phages that recognize and attack a broader range of bacterial strains beyond their natural host.

According to the researchers, this technology paves the way for the therapeutic use of standardized synthetic bacteriophages to treat bacterial infections.

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