Monographic Section

Mode of action of fibrous amphiboles: the case of Biancavilla (Sicily, Italy)


Background. The inhalation of fibrous amphiboles can result in pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although these fibres have the same disease-causing potential, their different morphologies and chemical composition can determine different biological activities. An unusual cluster of mesothelioma was evidenced in Biancavilla (Sicily) where no inhabitant had been significantly exposed to asbestos.
Objective. We herein discuss the mechanism of action of amphiboles, focusing on the fibres identified in the study area.
Results. Human lung carcinoma cells have been exposed to two different materials: prismatic fluoro-edenite and fibres with fluoro-edenitic composition. Only in the second case, they exhibit features typical of transformed cells, such as multinucleation, pro- survival activity and pro-inflammatory cytokine release. Accordingly, in vivo studies demonstrated that the fibrous sample only could induce a mesotheliomatogenic effect.
Conclusions. Fibres with fluoro-edenitic composition behave similarly to the asbestos crocidolite, whose connection with inflammation and lung cancer is well established.


fibrous amphiboles; asbestos; fluoro-edenite; Biancavilla; mesothelioma.

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