Scientific reports

New insights on the biomineralisation process developing in human lungs around inhaled asbestos fibres.

PMID 28332562


Once penetrated into the lungs of exposed people, asbestos induces an in vivo biomineralisation process that leads to the formation of a ferruginous coating embedding the fibres. The ensemble of the fibre and the coating is referred to as asbestos body and is believed to be responsible for the high toxicological outcome of asbestos. Lung tissue of two individuals subjected to prolonged occupational exposure to crocidolite asbestos was investigated using synchrotron radiation micro-probe tools. The distribution of K and of elements heavier than Fe (Zn, Cu, As, and Ba) in the asbestos bodies was observed for the first time. Elemental quantification, also reported for the first time, confirmed that the coating is highly enriched in Fe (~20% w/w), and x-ray absorption spectroscopy indicated that Fe is in the 3+ oxidation state and that it is present in the form of ferritin or hemosiderin. Comparison of the results obtained studying the asbestos bodies upon removing the biological tissue by chemical digestion and those embedded in histological sections, allowed unambiguously distinguishing the composition of the asbestos bodies, and understanding to what extent the digestion procedure altered their chemical composition. A speculative model is proposed to explain the observed distribution of Fe.

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F7879 Ferritin, cationized from horse spleen, 10 mg/mL in 0.15 M NaCl