Focused X-Ray Histological Analyses to Reveal Asbestos Fibers and Bodies in Lungs and Pleura of Asbestos-Exposed Subjects

Lorella Pascolo, Alessandra Gianoncelli, Clara Rizzardi, Martin De Jonge, Daryl Howard, David Paterson, Francesca Cammisuli, Murielle Salomé, Paolo De Paoli, Mauro Melato, Vincenzo Canzonieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Asbestos bodies are the histological hallmarks of asbestos exposure. Both conventional and advanced techniques are used to evaluate abundance and composition in histological samples. We previously reported the possibility of using synchrotron X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM) for analyzing the chemical composition of asbestos bodies directly in lung tissue samples. Here we applied a high-performance synchrotron X-ray fluorescence (XRF) set-up that could allow new protocols for fast monitoring of the occurrence of asbestos bodies in large histological sections, improving investigation of the related chemical changes. A combination of synchrotron X-ray transmission and fluorescence microscopy techniques at different energies at three distinct synchrotrons was used to characterize asbestos in paraffinated lung tissues. The fast chemical imaging of the XFM beamline (Australian Synchrotron) demonstrates that asbestos bodies can be rapidly and efficiently identified as co-localization of high calcium and iron, the most abundant elements of these formations inside tissues (Fe up to 10% w/w; Ca up to 1%). By following iron presence, we were also able to hint at small asbestos fibers in pleural spaces. XRF at lower energy and at higher spatial resolution was afterwards performed to better define small fibers. These analyses may predispose for future protocols to be set with laboratory instruments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1062-1071
Number of pages10
JournalMicroscopy and Microanalysis
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2016


  • asbestos
  • calcium
  • iron
  • lung
  • X-ray fluorescence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation


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