Study Background

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States, which translates to causing nearly one of every five deaths. Although the health impacts of smoking, such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, cancer, and reduced fertility are well-documented, the goal of the E-Cigs and Smoking Study is to develop new biomarkers of tobacco smoke exposure or e-cigarette use. The biomarkers will be based on analysis of DNA methylation, which is the addition of methyl groups to DNA and is one of several epigenetic processes that occur in cells.


To test this hypothesis, we will establish a bank of cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from before and after COVID-19 exposure from smokers and nonsmokers and use mass cytometry (CyTOF) to analyze detailed immune profiles, test if the frequency of senescent CD8 T cells is higher among smokers who develop COVID-19 (antibody positivity) relative to those who do not develop COVID-19 positivity. To compare potential immunological biomarkers of susceptibility to viral infection with genetic, epigenetic and other biological characteristics measured in blood before and after recovery from COVID-19 illness and develop assays that indicate immune cell dysfunction and COVID-19 susceptibility.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Healthy men and women ages 30-55
  • Current cigarette or vaping users
  • No prior or current cancer diagnosis
  • A body mass index of less than 35
  • No prior history of COVID-19 infection
  • Stated willingness to comply with all study procedures and availability for the duration of the study

Principal Investigator

Stavros Garantziotis, M.D.
Stavros Garantziotis, M.D.
Tenure Track Investigator; Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory
Tel 984-287-4412
Fax 919-541-9854
[email protected]
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop CU-01
Durham, NC 27709