The super cool thing is that it is a project that I am working on.
Yep, you read that right. I am actually participating in a big research project studying asbestos. More specifically, I am looking at asbestos from Libby, Montana and Nevada and observing the correlations between autoimmune diseases and asbestos. Like I said before, this research is still ongoing. But I would love to share what information I have on the topic so far.
To begin with, this is the abstract that we submitted to the Montana State University Undergraduate Research Celebration during the month of April:
"Asbestos is a known carcinogen and also induces fibrosis of the lung. In addition, amphibole asbestos in particular has been shown to induce autoimmune responses. Despite these different outcomes, early stages are characterized by an immune/inflammatory reaction in the lungs, which can be used as a measure of the immunotoxicity of the fibers. Libby Amphibole (LA) asbestos was a contaminant of vermiculite mined near Libby MT for decades, leading to asbestos diseases not only to workers at the mine, but in the entire community. Recently, amphibole asbestos fibers similar in composition to LA were discovered just east of Boulder City, NV. It is very important to determine the relative toxicity of these fibers to establish the risk of disturbing this material. Our objective was to determine whether the Nevada Amphibole (NA) has similar biological effects as LA in a culture of mixed splenocytes. Fibers were collected and characterized by geologists at UNLV. Mixed splenocytes were challenged in vitro with five treatment groups: No Treatment, or 2 doses of each amphibole, 35 µg/cm 2 or 70 µg/cm 2 . Culture media was collected after 24 hr of treatment, and tested for Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha (TNFα) using a sandwich ELISA, as an early indicator of inflammation. The results showed that there is a statistical difference when comparing the asbestos treatments and no treatment, as well as differences between LA and NA. The results of the experiment showed that both amphiboles elicited a high amount of TNFα within the samples tested. This indicates that NA can cause as much risk as LA and that NA should raise as much concern if not more concern than the Libby Amphibole. Further studies in our laboratory will measure other cytokines in this comparison
To begin with, we looked at TNFα. Essentially, this is a cytokine (chemical) produced by our cells when our body is trying to fight an autoimmune infection or cancer. In my area, we focused on the splenocytes from mice spleen models while another group focused on macrophages in the lungs. Now to explain the premise of this research.
Asbestos can take many years to manifest into a disease. If people were exposed to this in Nevada, there could be a huge clean up problem. How many people are exposed to this on a regular basis? Thousands? Millions? With the amount of tourists that travel through this area, the problem could be catastrophic. Therefore, it is crucial to fully determine what this naturally occurring asbestos sample can do to us.
As stated before, the research for this is ongoing! I am working on this project for the next couple of months, maybe even the next year. It is exciting to see where this research is heading! Thanks for reading!
If you have any questions on this topic, feel free to send me an email at: email@example.com
Here is the funding that we receive for this project: