Previous reports suggest that byssinosis, an asthma-like condition among textile workers, may be mediated in part by histamine liberated following inhalation of dust. A simple, sensitive, and reliable procedure using pig platelets which contain the unusually high concentration of 0.8-1.6 microgram histamine/10(9) cells has been devised for the assay of histamine-releasing factors in cotton mill dust and related materials, and has yielded results generally in accordance with earlier assays using chopped lung tissue. As little as 50--100 microgram of total extractable substances from cotton mill dust can be measured. The activity of the extract is associated with the non-dialysable high molecular weight portion. However, conditions of acid hydrolysis do not destroy the activity. Extracts of leaves from different varieties of plant are highly potent, which suggests that the factors responsible for byssinosis are widely distributed plant components, present in textile fibre plants and converted to a respirable form by handling processes. Ellagic acid and sodium metasilicate release histamine from pig platelets, and represent new classes of compounds with possible roles in the aetiology of byssinosis.
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