Chronic Nicotine Exposure’s Interference with Pluripotent Stem Cell Treatment

by Micaela Harris
October 13, 2023

Over eight million patients in the United States are affected by peripheral arterial disease, a condition in which a blockage in an artery prevents blood flow. Although there are current therapies that attempt to alleviate this condition, such as peripheral artery bypass grafting, angioplasty, and stents, many patients experience a reclosure of the artery within one year of procedure.

Induced pluripotent stem cells are a promising alternative therapeutic approach that may be more successful in treating peripheral arterial disease. Pluripotent stem cells are cells that can be reprogrammed into any other type of cell to help mitigate disorders within the body. However, this potential therapeutic benefit in preclinical models have primarily been established within a well-controlled environment, where the mice have stable environments and healthy diets. A team of researchers at Stanford University, led by Alex Chan, PhD and Ngan Huang, PhD, investigated whether or not pluripotent stem endothelial cells would still be beneficial for treating peripheral atrial disease in nonideal lifestyles, such as tobacco use.

Immunofluorescence staining of CD31 shows the stems cells with exposure to nicotine (right) have a significantly lower capillary density than the control group (left). Please refer to the full article for more information.

In their recent study published in JVS – Vascular Science, the researchers examined stem cell therapy’s efficacy for treatment of peripheral arterial disease in mice with nicotine exposure. The investigators implanting the pluripotent stem endothelial cells to treat induced peripheral arterial disease in two groups of mice: those exposure to tobacco for 28 days, and also a control group without nicotine exposure. The researchers found that the blood flow recovery within the animals with induced peripheral arterial disease was significantly lower than the control group, and these animals also had lower capillary density and rates of blood flow.

These findings suggest that nicotine exposure greatly affects the ability of limbs with arterial disease to respond to pluripotent endothelial stem cell treatment. Therefore, a history of tobacco use should be considered before considering cell therapy as a treatment for patients with peripheral arterial disease.

Additional Stanford Cardiovascular Institute-affiliated investigators who contributed to this study include Caroline Hu and Chisomaga Ekweume.

Alex Chan, PhD

Ngan Huang, PhD