An article published in the The American Journal of Pathology confirms that asbestos triggers a change in cells that makes them take on fibrosis-promoting properties and goes onto state that, that change could be the first step in malignant mesothelioma developing.  It is believed that asbestos starts an inflammatory process which ultimately leads to the asbestos cancer developing.

As it stands there is no cure for mesothelioma and the difficulty lies in the lack of knowledge about the disease and its development.  Scientists strive for a better understanding about the disease to assist them in tackling it.  Research has already confirmed that mesothelioma is accompanied by a chronic inflammatory reaction and studies have also pointed to immune factors playing a part in promoting fibrosis.

In this recent research, the team have considered whether this process of fibrosis production whereby the process goes awry and leads to an extensive change of epithelial cells to fibroblast, a process known as an epithelial-mesenchymal transition, might occur when cells are exposed to asbestos.  They used lab grown mesothelioma cells from human tumours of both the pleura and peritoneum to test this.  The researchers found that when the cells were exposed to asbestos, activation of the inflammasome and the subsequent production of IL-1 beta and IL-8, it triggered a change from normal mesothelial appearance to a fibroblast state.  By blocking the inflammasome’s actions or IL-1 beta, the transition was prevented.  The test was then applied to live mice and the same applied.

It is hoped that by conducting further research into the roles of the different proteins, a greater understanding of how asbestos causes cancers will be reached.  In turn it is hoped that this will lead to better treatments for this awful disease.

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Source: The American Journal of Pathology (Volume 183, Issue 5, pages 1378-1381),

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