Screening of different cytotoxicity methods for the assessment of ENDS toxicity relative to tobacco cigarettes

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Acknowledging CoEHAR in your work

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We wish to thank the Center of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction (CoEHAR, University of Catania, Italy- COE01-05) for assisting our project with the resources provided.

Massimo Caruso, Rosalia Emma, Sonja Rust, Alfio Distefano, Giuseppe Carota, Roberta Pulvirenti, Riccardo Polosa, Giovanili Volti


Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), i.e., electronic-cigarettes (e-cigs) and Tobacco Heating Products (THPs), are rapidly growing in popularity. Nonetheless, comprehensive quality and safety requirements for regulatory purposes are still under development. Cytotoxicity studies are important initial steps in appraising the potential ENDS toxicity. The aim of the present study was to screen different in vitro cytotoxicity methods for the assessment of ENDS toxicity. We evaluated NRU, MTT, Annexin V apoptosis (AN-V), High-Content Screening (HCS) assays and Real-Time Cell Analysis (RTCA), to compare two e-cigs and two THPs with the 1R6F reference tobacco cigarette. Human adenocarcinoma lung epithelial cells (H292) were exposed to tobacco smoke and ENDS vapor at air-liquid interface. All tests showed reduced cell viability following 1R6F smoke exposure and slight or no reduction with ENDS at 24 h. AN-V and RTCA exhibited a further significant reduction in cell viability following 1R6F exposure. AN-V allowed to discriminate viable cells from those in early/late apoptosis. RTCA and HCS being time-resolved analyses elucidate the kinetic dependency parameter for toxicity of smoke/vapor chemicals on cell viability. In conclusion, NRU assay may be considered a suitable test, especially when combined with a time-resolved analysis, for assessing the kinetic of cytotoxicity induced by these products.