Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How Asbestos Fibers Trigger Cancer In Human Cells

Date:
December 22, 2008
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
Scientists are now studying the molecular underpinnings of cancer by probing individual bonds between an asbestos fiber and human cells. Though any clinical application is years away, the researchers hope their findings could aid in drug development efforts targeting illnesses caused by excessive exposure to asbestos, including the deadly cancer called mesothelioma.

Ohio State University scientists believe they are the first in the world to study the molecular underpinnings of cancer by probing individual bonds between an asbestos fiber and human cells.

Though any clinical application is years away, the researchers hope their findings could aid in drug development efforts targeting illnesses caused by excessive exposure to asbestos, including the deadly cancer called mesothelioma.

The researchers use atomic force microscopy to observe how a single asbestos fiber binds with a specific receptor protein on cell surfaces. They suspect that at least one of the more lethal forms of asbestos triggers a cascade of events inside cells that eventually lead to illness, sometimes decades later.

The conditions most commonly associated with long-term exposure to airborne asbestos are lung cancer; asbestosis, a chronic respiratory disease; and mesothelioma, a cancer that forms in the membrane lining most internal organs of the body, including the lungs.

Eric Taylor, a doctoral candidate in earth sciences at Ohio State and a coauthor of the study, describes atomic force microscopy as “Braille on a molecular level,” meaning it allows scientists to feel and observe what’s happening on molecular surfaces.

“We’re looking at what molecules are involved in the chain of events when the fiber touches the cell. Does the binding occur over minutes, or hours? And what processes are triggered?” said Taylor, who presented the research at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

Asbestos comprises six different minerals that naturally occur in both fragment and fibrous forms. Because of its high durability and heat resistance, the fibrous form has been used in many manufacturing products since the late 1800s. Though its use is now highly regulated, asbestos is still present in many materials. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 1.3 million employees face significant asbestos exposure on the job. Environmental exposure is also possible because asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral in soils and exposed bedrock.

Crocidolite, or blue asbestos, is part of the amphibole group of asbestos minerals, which were banned in most of the Western world by the mid-1980s. Before that, they were used in such products as ceiling tiles and thermal insulation.

Ohio State researchers have focused so far on the crocidolite form of asbestos, but eventually hope to study how all six forms of asbestos interact with certain proteins on cell surfaces. Some forms of asbestos can dissolve in the lungs if they are inhaled, but others are believed to essentially “stick” to cells, especially at high concentrations, and eventually cause lung diseases.

“For the first time, this will give us data on biological activity that should help policymakers determine which forms of asbestos are the most dangerous,” said Steven Lower, associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State and a coauthor on the study.

“The hypothesis we’re testing is that binding of cell surface receptors to asbestos fibers triggers a signal event, which initiates the cancer,” said Lower, also a faculty member in the School of Environment and Natural Resources. “There seems to be something intrinsic about certain types of asbestos, blue asbestos in particular, that elicits a unique signal, and it triggers inflammation, the formation of pre-malignant cells and, ultimately, cancer.”

The first protein to be studied is epidermal growth factor receptor, which is present on the surface of every human cell. Understanding the intricacies of the binding process between the mineral and one or more proteins will provide an index of the biological activity of a particular type of asbestos, and might lead the researchers to figure out how to prevent or undo that interaction, Lower said.

Taylor said the driving motivation behind the research is the potential to find a way to intervene and prevent illness even after someone is exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma symptoms don’t typically appear until 30 to 50 years after exposure. After diagnosis, however, the cancer is difficult to control, and there is no cure.

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation.

Taylor and Lower conducted the research with Ann Wylie of the University of Maryland and Brooke Mossman of the University of Vermont.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "How Asbestos Fibers Trigger Cancer In Human Cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081218140541.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2008, December 22). How Asbestos Fibers Trigger Cancer In Human Cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081218140541.htm
Ohio State University. "How Asbestos Fibers Trigger Cancer In Human Cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081218140541.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) The Republican-led House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama, accusing him of overstepping his executive authority in making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Citing 81 previous studies, new research out of London suggests the benefits of smoking e-cigarettes instead of regular ones outweighs the risks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins