It has been decades since the Environmental Protection Agency publicly linked asbestos to malignant mesothelioma, and even longer that scientists have been exploring the role between the mineral and the illness. Though the actual mechanism that leads to the development of cancerous cells remains a mystery, Japanese researchers believe they may be one step closer to understanding. Their recent study points to asbestos having a negative impact on immunity.
Silica and Asbestos Role in Immunity Explored
Asbestos is chemically similar to silica, another mineral that has been linked to lung and autoimmune diseases. Researchers from Okayama University and Kawasaki Medical School had already established that silica has an impact on immune tolerance, and wondered whether the same might be true of asbestos fibers. If asbestos impact immune system cells from battling against irritation and inflammation, it could contribute to the development of the rare and fatal disease.
With that in mind, the Japanese researchers set out to determine whether asbestos’ impact on the immune system made mesothelioma’s development more likely. “Given that malignant tumors can result following exposure to asbestos, the attenuation [reduction] of anti-tumor immunity in cases of asbestos exposure is an important area of investigation,” they wrote in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Mesothelioma Study Combined Asbestos Fibers with Immune System Cells
The mesothelioma researchers conducted a series of experiments designed to look at the impact that asbestos fibers have on the cells that make up the immune system. According to investigator Naoko Kumagai-Takei, “We observed the effect of asbestos fibers on T lymphocytes, such as CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), CD4+ helper T (Th), and regulatory T (Treg) cells, and showed that anti-tumor immunity was attenuated [reduced].” This confirms their theory that the body’s defenses against tumors are impacted by exposure to asbestos, and takes us one step closer to understanding how malignant mesothelioma appears.
If you or someone you love has been impacted by malignant mesothelioma, there is a great deal of information available to help you better understand what is happening. For access to these resources, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.