Immunological effects of silica and asbestos.

Department of Hygiene, Kawasaki Medical School, Matsushima 577, Kurashiki 7010192, Japan.
Cellular & molecular immunology (Impact Factor: 3.42). 09/2007; 4(4):261-8.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Silicosis patients (SILs) and patients who have been exposed to asbestos develop not only respiratory diseases but also certain immunological disorders. In particular, SIL sometimes complicates autoimmune diseases such as systemic scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis (known as Caplan syndrome), and systemic lupus erythematoses. In addition, malignant complications such as lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma often occur in patients exposed to asbestos, and may be involved in the reduction of tumor immunity. Although silica-induced disorders of autoimmunity have been explained as adjuvant-type effects of silica, more precise analyses are needed and should reflect the recent progress in immunomolecular findings. A brief summary of our investigations related to the immunological effects of silica/asbestos is presented. Recent advances in immunomolecular studies led to detailed analyses of the immunological effects of asbestos and silica. Both affect immuno-competent cells and these effects may be associated with the pathophysiological development of complications in silicosis and asbestos-exposed patients such as the occurrence of autoimmune disorders and malignant tumors, respectively. In addition, immunological analyses may lead to the development of new clinical tools for the modification of the pathophysiological aspects of diseases such as the regulation of autoimmunity or tumor immunity using cell-mediated therapies, various cytokines, and molecule-targeting therapies. In particular, as the incidence of asbestos-related malignancies is increasing and such malignancies have been a medical and social problem since the summer of 2005 in Japan, efforts should be focused on developing a cure for these diseases to eliminate nationwide anxiety.

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