New Tests Can Find Mesothelioma-Causing Asbestos in the Air, According to Surviving Mesothelioma

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Researchers in England and Japan are developing new ways to detect airborne asbestos, the primary cause of malignant mesothelioma.

The bioprobe 'had sufficient affinity and specificity for detecting all the five types of asbestos...'

As reported by Surviving Mesothelioma, a team of Japanese molecular engineers have recently published their findings on a biologically-based test to detect minute amounts of the deadly toxin asbestos in air samples. Asbestos is the leading cause worldwide of mesothelioma, a rare but virulent cancer of body membranes.

The Japanese team's fluorescent “bioprobe” is based on a bacterial protein called a histone-like nucleoid structuring (H-NS) protein extracted from the bacteria E. coli. Because of an electrostatic interaction, the specially-engineered protein will glow under fluorescent light when it has been exposed to microscopic asbestos particles.

According to the researchers, the bioprobe “had sufficient affinity and specificity for detecting all the five types of asbestos in the amphibole group.” In addition to detecting airborne asbestos particles, the bioprobe can also reportedly distinguish these particles from particles of a similar but safer asbestos substitute called wollastonite. The original study was published in the online open-access medical journal, PLos One. (Ishida, t, et al, “Molecular Engineering of a Fluorescent Bioprobe for Sensitive and Selective Detection of Amphibole Asbestos”, September 27, 2013, PLoS One,

At the same time, researchers at the University of Hertfordshire in England have made a sensor that uses lasers and magnets to find airborne asbestos particles in real time, eliminating the need to send air samples to a lab. After airborne particles are made visible by the laser light, they are pulled through a magnetic field, which will align them if they are asbestos.

The developers of the new sensor say they expect it to be commercially available in 2014 to construction companies and others who want to help protect workers against mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-linked illnesses. The study was originally published in the online optics journal Optics Express. (Stopford, Christopher, et al, “Real-time detection of airborne asbestos by light scattering from magnetically realigned fibers”, May 6, 2013, Optics Express, pp. 11356-11367.

Although asbestos is no longer used in new construction in most developed countries, people who come in contact with the dust during demolition or renovation or while working on old asbestos car brakes can still be at risk for mesothelioma. Mesothelioma claims the lives of an estimated 2,500 Americans each year. Microscopic airborne asbestos particles are impossible to identify without the use of some kind of detection technology.

For nearly ten years, Surviving Mesothelioma has brought readers the most important and ground-breaking news on the causes, diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. All Surviving Mesothelioma news is gathered and reported directly from the peer-reviewed medical literature. Written for patients and their loved ones, Surviving Mesothelioma news helps families make more informed decisions.

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Michael Ellis
Cancer Monthy
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