American Review of Respiratory Disease

In order to assess the effects of cigarette smoke and asbestos exposure, we divided guinea pigs into 4 groups: smoking or nonsmoking, and asbestos-exposed or not asbestos-exposed groups. Asbestos-exposed animals were given a single intratracheal instillation of 5 mg UICC amosite, a dose and method of administration that we have previously shown produces morphologic changes in the small airways as well as minimal interstitial fibrosis. Animals were smoked 5 days per week for 6 months. By itself, smoking did not affect lung collagen content, small airways wall thickness, or the volume fraction of tissue surrounding airways, but it did cause a significant increase in alveolar mean linear intercept (Lm). Asbestos alone increased collagen content, airway wall thickness, and tissue volume fraction surrounding airways, the latter measure used to assess interstitial fibrosis. An unexpected finding was that asbestos also increased Lm. The two agents administered together caused more severe changes of all types than were produced by either agent alone, and the interaction between the 2 was generally synergistic. Smoke-exposed animals retained 3 times the asbestos fiber burden of those not smoke-exposed; the increase in retention was greater for short than for long fibers. We conclude that cigarette smoke can potentiate the fibrosis induced by asbestos, possibly because of increased fiber retention. As well, in this model, asbestos or asbestos plus cigarette smoke produces increases in alveolar size. The fibrotic changes may account for the greater incidences of non-neoplastic parenchymal lung disease reported in smoking asbestos workers; changes in air space size might, if present in humans, be related to the air-flow obstruction seen in some groups of dust-exposed workers.

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