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NIDCR awards $2 million in e-cigarette research grants

March 15, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin

Bethesda, Md. — The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research announced March 10 it has awarded more than $2 million in first-year funding to seven research grants centered on studying the effects of electronic cigarettes on oral and craniofacial tissues.

Dr. Jeffrey Kim, a dental researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology with the ADA Foundation Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center, thinks the NIDCR's timing for funding this type of research couldn't be better.

"After decades of government anti-smoking campaigns, the percentage of cigarette smokers among U.S. high school students is finally in single-digits, yet findings from the National Youth Tobacco Survey show 13.4 percent of high school students are now using e-cigarettes and that number is rapidly rising," said Dr. Kim. "Moreover, inconsistent and contradicting e-cig research results have polarized researchers, policymakers and the general public, leaving them with little scientific fact to evaluate the potential risks of e-cigarettes."

In 2014, NIDCR announced its intent to increase research on the biological and physiological effects that e-cigarettes have on cells, tissues and organs of the oral cavity, a decision the ADA applauded in a letter to Dr. Martha J. Somerman, NIDCR director.

"Preventing oral cancer and other tobacco-related diseases has been a longstanding priority for the ADA. We applaud you for proposing a research initiative that is so timely and vital to the public's oral health," wrote the ADA in September 2014.

"When a liquid nicotine solution is vaporized by an e-cigarette, multiple constituents may be found in the aerosols, but we don't yet know the biological and physiological impact of these aerosols on oral tissue or its microbiome," said Sundar Venkatachalam, Ph.D., director of NIDCR's Oral and Salivary Cancer Biology Program and program official for e-cigarette research. "The projects being funded will provide much needed information on the effects of e-cigarette chemicals on oral health."

Dr. Kim said he hopes the NIDCR and other research efforts will lead to developing comprehensive e-cigarette testing methods and much needed standards in the field.

"Unbiased and robust research will bring clarity to the situation and lead to better informing the public of potential health risks," he said.

Four programs will receive funding for up to four years, pending progress and available funds, said NIDCR. They are:

Three projects will be funded for up to two years: For more information about the NIDCR, visit http://www.nidcr.nih.gov.