Vaping is suggested to be a risk factor for poor wound healing akin to smoking. However, the molecular and histologic mechanisms underlying this postulation remain unknown. Our study sought to compare molecular and histologic changes in cutaneous flap and non-flap tissue between vaping, smoking and control cohorts. Animal study of 15 male Sprague-Dawley rats was randomized to three cohorts: negative control (n = 5), e-cigarette (n = 5) and cigarette (n = 5) and exposed to their respective treatments with serum cotinine monitoring. After 30 days, random pattern flaps were raised and healed for 2 weeks after which skin punch biopsies of flap and non-flap tissues were collected for quantitative-reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction of three selected wound healing genes (transforming growth factor β [TGF-β], vascular endothelial growth factor [VEGF], matrix metalloproteinase-1 [MMP-1]); then, immunohistochemistry for CD68 expression, α-smooth muscle actin looking at microvessel density (MVD) and in situ hybridization to localize VEGF production were undertaken. In flap tissue, vaping (mean[SEM]) (0.61[0.07]) and smoking (0.70[0.04]) were associated with decreased fold change of VEGF expression compared with controls (0.91[0.03]) (p < 0.05, p < 0.05, respectively). In non-flap tissue, only vaping was associated with decreased VEGF expression (mean[SEM]) (0.81[0.07]), compared with controls (1.17[0.10]) (p < 0.05) with expression primarily localized to basal keratinocytes and dermal capillaries. Immunohistochemistry showed decreased MVD in smoking (0.27[0.06]) and vaping (0.26[0.04]) flap tissue compared to matched controls (0.65[0.14]) (p < 0.05, p < 0.05, respectively) and decreased areas of fibrosis compared with controls on gross histology. Vaping and smoking were similarly associated with decreased VEGF expression, MVD and fibrotic changes in flap tissue. The results suggest attenuated angiogenesis via decreased VEGF expression as a mechanism for poor wound healing in vaping-exposed rats.
© 2021 The Wound Healing Society.