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
|Contact: Eric Taylor|
Ohio State University