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 Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland
15.11.2018 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen

nachricht The unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs
14.11.2018 | Uppsala University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New materials: Growing polymer pelts

19.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Earthquake researchers finalists for supercomputing prize

19.11.2018 | Information Technology

Controlling organ growth with light

19.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>