Researchers are investigating the mechanism behind nicotine’s impact on vascular health and whether supplementation with a nutritional ingredient, vitamin K2, could help attenuate calcification of vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) resulting from nicotine exposure.
Smokers are at higher cardiovascular risk as smoking increases factors like accelerated atherosclerosis and vascular calcification. Researchers are investigating the mechanism behind nicotine’s impact on vascular health and whether supplementation with a nutritional ingredient, vitamin K2, could help attenuate calcification of vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) resulting from nicotine exposure.
The study1 was published this month in Cardiovascular Research. It was supported by vitamin K ingredients supplier NattoPharma (Oslo, Norway), a Gnosis by Lesaffre company, through the company’s relationship with the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. Through Horizon 2020, NattoPharma has received funding to study vitamin K2’s benefits for vascular health.
In the study, researchers aimed to investigate the mechanisms through which nicotine might accelerate vascular disease. Researchers used ex vivo micro-computed-tomography scanning to assess the vascular calcification of 62 carotid lesions of both smoking and non-smoking subjects. They found calcification to be more prevalent in the carotid plaques of the smokers compared to the non-smokers, “confirming higher atherosclerotic burden.” The researchers also induced vascular smooth muscle cell calcification in vitro using nicotine and found that “the pro-calcifying effects of nicotine were mediated by Ca2+-dependent Nox5.”
They then studied what happened in vitro when vascular smooth muscle cell was pretreated with vitamin K2 and found that pretreatment with vitamin K2 helped decrease nicotine-induced intracellular oxidative stress, extracellular vesicle secretion, and calcification.
"In this study, we show that smokers are at increased risk of cardiovascular events and that smoking impacts cardiovascular disease by increasing oxidative stress, resulting in accelerated vascular calcification,” said Leon Schurgers, PhD, in a NattoPharma press release. Schurgers is Professor of Biochemistry of Vascular Calcification and Vice-Chair of Biochemistry at the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM), Maastricht University, and a corresponding author of the study. “We show that vitamin K2, next to its well-known function as a cofactor in the activation of vitamin K–dependent proteins, also is an effective antioxidant capable of reducing oxidative stress.”
The NattoPharma press release points out that e-cigarettes also contain nicotine, meaning these results may be of future interest where vaping is concerned.
“We have been working with Maastricht University for almost two decades validating the health benefits of vitamin K2, creating this category,” said Hogne Vik, MD, PhD, MBA, NattoPharma’s chief medical officer, in the press release. “[T]his new study adds to our current pursued argument that vitamin K2 can have a tremendous impact as a cardiovascular therapy—not only in healthy populations, but in patient or unhealthy populations, like nicotine users.”