Many people in North Carolina and throughout the country have contracted terminal illnesses after working in train yards, automotive repair, factories, shipyards, construction, old school buildings and other industries. While the work in such industries varies, there is a common thread among the terminally ill patients. They were all exposed to asbestos. It is well known that asbestos can cause incurable diseases, such as mesothelioma. If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with this disease, you may want to follow research that began last year.
Researchers have been studying asbestos and mesothelioma for years. In 2022, however, scientists working at Penn State University took a different approach to studies that have been ongoing for decades. Up to that point, the central focus of most analyses was to learn about how the human body reacts when exposed to asbestos. The goal of this study, however, was to learn how asbestos reacts once it enters a lung cell. Researchers already know that asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma, but they were hoping to learn how it occurs.
If you worked in an industry in your twenties or thirties and were exposed to asbestos on the job, you are at risk for mesothelioma. You may not realize that you are ill, however, until you are in your fifties or sixties, although symptoms may arise sooner than that. It typically takes decades for coughing, chest pain and other symptoms to develop. Researchers know what the symptoms are and have determined an irrefutable connection between mesothelioma and asbestos exposure.
They are trying to figure out what happens to asbestos when it enters human lung cells and how its response inside the cell might provide answers as to exactly how it causes mesothelioma. Prior to last year’s experiments conducted in a Penn State laboratory, scientists had only studied the effects of asbestos in the space surrounding lung cells. This research program was focused on the space inside the lung cells. The studies were performed in vitro, meaning, in a test tube or culture dish, outside of a human body.
The researchers who participated in the studies later said that they were surprised because the asbestos had reacted exactly opposite of how they had expected it to, once it was inside a human lung cell. They said it transformed in such a way that the asbestos appeared to be attempting to defend itself as lysosomes in the lung cells began to absorb the asbestos. Lysosomes are sac-like structures in human cells that contain enzymes, which work to destroy dead cells or process waste inside a cell.
Since the experiments were conducted in vitro, the researchers say there is much more work to be done to determine if similar reactions occur when the cells are still inside a human body. The scientists were pleased with their results because they now believe they are a step closer to understanding how asbestos causes mesothelioma and other terminal illnesses.
Many mesothelioma patients struggle to alleviate pain and maintain quality of life as their bodies slowly succumb to the disease. If you or your loved one have been diagnosed with this illness, there are numerous treatments available to provide palliative care. Sadly, employer negligence is often the reason that workers were unaware of asbestos exposure on the job, which is why many people have joined class action lawsuits to seek restitution for damages.