Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

What makes erionite carcinogenic?

13.01.2017

Jena University mineralogists provide new findings on carcinogenic silicate

The mineral erionite is considered to be highly carcinogenic and is on the World Health Organisation’s list of substances that cause cancer. A few years ago, an entire village in Turkey actually had to be moved, because the substance was very common in the surrounding area and every second inhabitant died of a particular type of cancer caused by breathing in erionite particles.


Fibers of the mineral erionite with adhering particles, taken by a transmission electron microscope at the Institute of Geosciences of the University Jena.

Photo: Kilian Pollok/FSU Jena


The mineralogist Dr Kilian Pollok, using a modern transmission electron microscope, that was used to analyze the mineral erionite.

Photo: Jan-Peter Kasper/FSU

Up to now it has been thought that iron as a constituent element of the mineral erionite is the reason for the carcinogenic effect. However, mineralogists of Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany), together with colleagues from the University of Modena (Italy), have discovered that this metal does not even appear in the crystal structure of erionite.

Iron is not part of erionite

“Like asbestos, erionite is composed of fibres, which are inhaled and reach the lungs, where they cause considerable damage, because they are too long to be eliminated by the body’s own defences,” explains Dr Kilian Pollok of the University Jena. “In both cases, doctors have until now considered the iron in the mineral to be mainly responsible for the cancer cases, as that metal encourages the transition from inflammation to tumour development.”

However, the latest findings mean that this assumption needs to be re-examined, as, unlike most substances lumped together under the umbrella term asbestos, iron does not form part of erionite’s crystal structure.

“Using a transmission electron microscope, we examined erionite samples just a few micrometres in size in high resolution,” says Prof. Falko Langenhorst. “In this way, we established that iron is only present in accompanying minerals attached to erionite, not in the erionite itself.”

Usually, the body’s own phagocytes are able to deal with such iron particles, but they might be hampered by the direct contact to the fibres. The silicate, which results from weathering processes, is found in various volcanic regions worldwide. However, the iron content of the accompanying material attached to it can vary considerably, depending on the environment and the region. For example, diverse US samples show high and low concentrations of the metal, which appear to be correlated with toxicity.

Erionite as road gravel

The mineralogists’ new findings therefore raise new questions that need to be answered: does erionite have a carcinogenic effect purely due to its asbestos-like form or does this effect develop only in combination with the ferrous particles? This is important, because although the material does not have – and has never had – any specific use, in contrast to asbestos, it still frequently ends up in proximity to humans. In the USA, for example, tuff containing erionite has been used as road gravel.

“As mineralogists, we cannot of course resolve current medical issues, but thanks to the outstanding technical facilities here in Jena, we are able to use basic research to provide important new information on carcinogenic mechanisms,” says Langenhorst. “And it shows once again how multifaceted mineralogy as a science is.”

Contact:
Prof. Dr Falko Langenhorst, Dr Kilian Pollok
Institute of Geosciences of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Carl-Zeiss-Promenade 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)3641 / 948733
E-mail: falko.langenhorst[at]uni-jena.de, kilian.pollok[at]uni-jena.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.nature.com/articles/srep37981 - Original Publication

Sebastian Hollstein | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.uni-jena.de/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Ten-year anniversary of the Neumayer Station III
18.01.2019 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht The pace at which the world’s permafrost soils are warming
16.01.2019 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Ten-year anniversary of the Neumayer Station III

The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research

Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI

The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...

Im Focus: Ultra ultrasound to transform new tech

World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles

The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.

Im Focus: Flying Optical Cats for Quantum Communication

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.

In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

Im Focus: Elucidating the Atomic Mechanism of Superlubricity

The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Additive manufacturing reflects fundamental metallurgical principles to create materials

18.01.2019 | Materials Sciences

How molecules teeter in a laser field

18.01.2019 | Life Sciences

The cytoskeleton of neurons has been found to be involved in Alzheimer's disease

18.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>