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How exactly do asbestos fibers cause cancer? That is the question currently being addressed by a group of researchers at Ohio State University. The term “asbestos” refers to six different minerals that occur naturally on the planet. Some forms of asbestos are fibrous and these are what have been used for over 100 years in manufacturing many products.

These researchers have so far focused on one type of asbestos called crocidolite, which has needle-like fibers.

  • Their hypothesis is that asbestos fibers bind to receptors on cell surfaces and this binding triggers an event which begins the development of cancer. Inflammation is caused first, which leads to the formation of pre-cancerous cells and then to cancerous cells.
  • Their goal is to devise a way for physicians to intervene in the sequence of events triggered and prevent formation of cancerous cells. Since asbestos is still used in the U.S. under regulated conditions, there are still workers being exposed to it. The Department of Labor has estimated that about 1.3 million employees are currently exposed. Success in this research could lead to a way of protecting such workers from developing any cancer.

On the surface of every human cell is a protein called the epidermal growth factor receptor. The group has been studying this receptor to better understand how it binds with asbestos fibers. Does it take minutes to bind? Hours? Longer? Their work is being supported by the National Science Foundation.

They are using an atomic force microscope which gives clear images at a nanoscale level. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. The nanoscale refers to objects between one and 100 nm in size. As a comparison, data in CDs is stored as “pits” about 100 nm deep and 500 nm wide.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining around body organs. There are three mesothelioma types — in the lungs, heart or abdomen. They take decades to show up after asbestos exposure, and they are fatal.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or if you have a loved one who has been so diagnosed, our lawyers can help. You may be able to win fair compensation for your medical costs, pain and suffering, and other harm. The first step is to call or email our mesothelioma attorneys to schedule a free consultation.

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