What are Mesothelial Cells?
By Rachel Ernst |
Mesothelial cells line certain surfaces of the body's internal organs, forming a protective layer known as the mesothelium. When damaged, the DNA in mesothelial cells changes, causing uncontrolled growth that results in the formation of malignant mesothelioma tumors.
Mesothelial Cells: Structure and Function
Mesothelial cells are located in the body’s serous cavities, including the pleura (lining the lungs), peritoneum (lining the abdomen), pericardium (lining the heart), and tunica vaginalis (lining the testes). They aid in providing a slick, protective service for organs and tissue to function properly. Structurally, mesothelial cells have a flattened, irregular shape with a microvilli membrane on their surface. Functionally, the cells secrete a lubricating fluid, known as serous fluid. The serous fluid helps the organs move against each other during regular bodily functions like breathing, digestion, or heartbeats.
The mesothelium, formed by layers of mesothelial cells, acts as a barrier, preventing organs from sticking to each other and allowing them to move freely. These tissues also provide a protective shield against infection and inflammation, aiding in the overall functionality and health of the organs it surrounds. For mesothelioma and lung cancer patients, understanding the vital role of mesothelial cells in maintaining the health of the pleura, which lines the lungs, can be crucial in managing their conditions.
Mesothelial Tissue and Mesothelioma
Despite their vital role in maintaining bodily functions, mesothelial cells can become agents of disease. Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers, a known carcinogen, can mutate the DNA of the cells in the mesothelial tissues. While mesothelial cells have the ability to regenerate and repair the damaged mesothelium to some extent, the impact of significant asbestos exposure can damage this healing process. This damage disrupts the mesothelium’s protective functions and eventually leads to the formation of malignant mesothelioma tumors. These cancer tumors infiltrate and damage the mesothelial tissues. Instead of facilitating smooth movement, mesothelioma tumors cause pain, inflammation, and organ dysfunction.
Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers, a well-established carcinogen, has the potential to cause genetic mutations within mesothelial cells, which are typically crucial for bodily functions. While these cells possess some regenerative capacity to repair damaged mesothelial tissues, substantial asbestos exposure can hinder this healing process. Consequently, this impairment disrupts the mesothelium’s protective functions and ultimately develops malignant mesothelioma tumors. These cancerous growths invade and harm the mesothelial tissues and disrupt the usual fluid movement, leading to discomfort, inflammation, and organ dysfunction.
Types of Mesothelial Cells
Mesothelial cells, characterized by their common flattened and irregular shape and the presence of microvilli on their cell surfaces, which enable efficient fluid transport and reduced friction, exhibit diversity in their roles and locations within the body. They are categorized into different types based on their specific location and the bodily cavity they line, allowing them to contribute uniquely to their respective functions and maintain overall physiological balance throughout the body’s complex systems.
Pleural Mesothelial Cells
Pleural mesothelial cells within the pleural cavity surrounding the lungs play a crucial role in safeguarding lung function and well-being. This cell population consists of both visceral pleural mesothelial cells covering the lung surface and parietal pleural mesothelial cells situated on the chest wall. Together, they form a dynamic protective shield for the delicate pulmonary environment.
Pericardial Mesothelial Cells
Pericardial mesothelial cells occupy the pericardial cavity, enveloping the heart, where they serve as essential guardians of cardiac health. These specialized cells contribute significantly to safeguarding the heart and promoting its smooth, friction-free movement, ensuring the proper functioning of this vital organ.
Peritoneal Mesothelial Cells
Within the peritoneal cavity, encasing the abdominal organs, peritoneal mesothelial cells take on the responsibility of protecting and lubricating the intricate movements occurring within the abdomen. Their presence is essential for maintaining abdominal health and function.
Tunica Vaginalis Mesothelial Cells
Tunica Vaginalis Mesothelial Cells, found within the lining of the testes in the scrotum, fulfill a dual role in safeguarding the testicles and facilitating their movement within this unique anatomical niche. Their presence is vital for maintaining the structural and functional integrity of the testes.
Despite their distinct locations, these mesothelial cells share a common purpose: to establish protective barriers, secrete serous fluid for lubrication, and facilitate the smooth movement of organs within their respective cavities. This coordinated effort ensures the overall well-being and proper function of vital bodily systems.
Abnormal Mesothelial Cells and Mesothelial Neoplasms
Abnormal mesothelial cells, particularly those linked to mesothelial neoplasms like mesothelioma, are typically the result of genetic mutations or alterations of the DNA in those cells. These mutations are often linked to exposure to carcinogens, including asbestos fibers. Asbestos exposure can occur in occupational settings like construction, mining, and shipbuilding, or in non-occupational settings such as secondary exposure from asbestos-exposed family members or living near a former mine. Once inhaled or ingested, lodged asbestos fibers can cause chronic inflammation and scarring within the mesothelium tissue, eventually leading to genetic damage and abnormal cell growth.
Mesothelioma often remains asymptomatic or presents symptoms similar to more common issues, such as lung cancer, making it challenging to diagnose early. Early-stage signs of mesothelioma may include chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. As the disease progresses, symptoms may intensify into a persistent cough, pleural effusion (fluid between tissues in the chest cavity), abdominal pain, or bowel obstruction.
Mesothelioma Detection and Treatment
Early detection is critical, given the challenges of the mesothelioma diagnosis process. If you have a history of frequent asbestos exposure, regular medical check-ups and symptom evaluations are essential for timely detection and appropriate intervention. Treatment for mesothelioma often involves a multi-model approach. Treatment options often consist of multiple remedies designed to reduce pain and improve quality of life. Patients may qualify for life-extending treatments depending on the stage and extent of the disease.
Types of mesothelioma treatment modalities include surgery (such as pleurectomy or extrapleural pneumonectomy), chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. Palliative care, including physical therapy and nutritional changes, can help with symptom management and enhance the overall quality of life for individuals affected by mesothelioma.
Mesothelial Lining Disorders
Several unique disorders can affect the mesothelial lining of various internal cavities and organs, such as peritonitis or pericarditis. These disorders, not to be confused with lung cancer, have distinct causes, symptoms, and potential treatment options.
Peritonitis is the inflammation of the peritoneum, commonly caused by bacterial infection due to perforated intestines, appendicitis, or abdominal surgery. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Treatment includes antibiotics and, in severe cases, surgery to address the underlying cause and remove infected tissues. Peritonitis can be life-threatening and needs immediate medical attention.
Pericarditis is the inflammation of the pericardium. Viral infections, autoimmune disorders, or heart attacks often cause the disorder. Symptoms include chest pain, palpitations, and difficulty breathing. Treatment aims to reduce inflammation and may include anti-inflammatory medications or antibiotics. Serious cases may require pericardiocentesis to drain excess fluid from the pericardial sac.
Current Research and Future Directions
Research related to mesothelial cells and their involvement in diseases like mesothelioma is focusing on several promising areas. Scientists have been working on using biomarkers in cells for early mesothelioma detection and targeted therapies. If you are living with an asbestos-related disease, you may want to ask a mesothelioma specialist about how to become involved with a research study.
Advances in understanding the molecular and genetic mechanisms driving mesothelioma development are currently being explored. Studies are identifying genetic mutations and molecular pathways specific to the disease. Results from these types of studies serve as potential targets for innovative therapies, including targeted drugs to minimize damage to healthy tissues and immunotherapies.
Additionally, investigations into the tumor microenvironment and the immune response against mesothelioma are shedding light on novel strategies to enhance immune-based treatments. Future research may use AI to develop individual genetic profiles to tailor treatment strategies for better outcomes and survival rates.
Alterative Treatment and Legal Options for Mesothelial Cell Treatment
Patients seeking alternative treatment options may not always be eligible for research-based therapies. Certain mesothelioma treatment centers, however, offer the most advanced and modern treatments involving diseases of the mesothelial tissues. Lung cancer and mesothelioma lawsuits exist to help patients recover financial compensation, allowing them to access treatments across the country and have peace of mind while they recover.
With years of dedicated expertise, Lung Cancer Center has effectively guided patients in connecting with specialized lawyers, ensuring they receive the best legal assistance for their mesothelioma or lung cancer cases. Connect with our patient advocate team and get help for you or a loved one.