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Secondhand Smoke's Cellular Effects Measured

Endothelial progenitor cells rise, but functional ability falls after subjects' exposure to smoke

TUESDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to secondhand smoke, at levels often found in the smoking areas of bars and restaurants, leads to acute vascular injury and an increased level of circulating dysfunctional endothelial progenitor cells, researchers report in the May 6 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Christian Heiss, M.D., of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues analyzed data from 10 healthy non-smokers who were exposed to 30 minutes of secondhand smoke on two days.

The investigators found that levels of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) were increased during the 24 hours after exposure. Exposure to secondhand smoke completely blocked chemotaxis in the cells; chemotactic ability of EPCs is a measure of functional recovery when they're used as a cell-based therapy.

"There seem to be two key 'take-home messages' from the current study. The first is that exposure to commonly encountered levels of environmental tobacco smoke for short periods of time can have profound and sustained effects on several aspects of endothelial cell biology and thus arterial health, including microparticle release, nitric oxide release and dysfunction of EPCs, some or all of which may contribute to the important cardiovascular risk of environmental tobacco smoke exposure. The second and perhaps more provocative message is the importance of measuring EPC function, as well as simple EPC numbers, in assessing reparative or therapeutic capabilities of EPCs in pathophysiological situations," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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