New Study: Human Cells Like Asbestos Cells but Can’t Handle Their Size

Human cells

New research may begin answering questions about why asbestos poses such a health threat to humans. The answers require a microscopic look.

A new study published in the September issue of the online publication Nature Nanotechnology finds that the nature of human cells and how they interact with asbestos cells may explain why asbestos exposure is harmful to humans.

The study states that nanotubes and asbestos cells approach human cells at a certain angles, with the rounded tip of the cell towards the human cell. Because of the human cell’s receptors, they are able to recognize the rounded tip of the asbestos cells.

Because these rounded tips can contain potentially useful nutrients, human cells often begin ingesting the long nanotube, or asbestos cell, in hope of getting these nutrients. However, because these asbestos cells are long, the human cell becomes unable to completely ingest the asbestos cell. This struggle by the human cell signals the body for help.

This trigger for help yields a response that causes further inflammation of more cells and more immune challenges for the body.

This process is best defined by the adage, “biting off more than you can chew.” This is precisely what the human cell is doing with the asbestos cell.

The dynamic of these cells may provide some insight into potential future methods of medicine delivery. By mimicking the action of these cells to transport medication directly to certain cells, the medical community would be able to treat diseases without many of the associated side effects.

Such a breakthrough would be beneficial to countless diseases, including for asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.


Mark Hall joined the Mesothelioma Center as a writer in 2011. Prior to joining the content team, Mark graduated from the University of Florida and then spent several years writing about business, entrepreneurship and technology for various online publications.

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