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Exposure to microplastics may alter cellular function

Written by Kathleen Haughney

Pollution from small pieces of plastic, or microplastics, has been a growing concern of scientists, public health advocates, and environmentalists as these non-degradable elements are increasingly making their way into waterways and even the air we breathe.

Now, a team of Florida State University researchers is looking at what inhaling and ingesting these tiny particles can do to humans on . Researchers found that exposure to microplastics for just a few days caused human lung cells to slow down their metabolism and growth, change shapes, and degenerate so that there are gaps in what is normally a solid layer of cells. The results raise questions about the long-term effects of plastic particles on human health, especially for those already suffering from respiratory illnesses.

Their research has been published in Chemical Research in Toxicology.

“ Plastics are very helpful “They are indispensable,” said Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Foreign Policy University Cheng Xiang “Amy” Sang. “But as humans we want to live healthy lives, so we need to think of ways to reduce the potential harmful effects of plastic.”

As interest in microplastics grew, Sang and her team began to think about how inhaling and swallowing these tiny materials might affect, simply breathing. . Research specialist Joan Hare, PhD students Kerstin Goodman and Timothy Hua, and former Virginia State University graduate student Zahra Khamis eventually decided to focus their efforts on polystyrene, a type of plastic commonly used in disposable tableware, outdoor lunch boxes and materials. Medical such as test tubes or Petri dishes.

“Polystyrene is found in many single-use items because it is very durable,” said Heer. “But the thing that makes it useful is that it persists in the environment. And when these elements are scattered, they ground into the soil and explode in the air.”

The team exposed lung cells in a petri dish to small amounts of polystyrene at levels common in the environment and found that although the plastic did not cause cell death, it did cause some interesting changes. After only a few days, they found that the cell’s metabolic processes slowed down, cell proliferation was inhibited, cell shape shifted and disorder occurred. Additionally, the team found that The particles were absorbed by the cells and formed a ring around the nucleus in the cell.

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“The microplastics did not kill the cells, but the cells were not functioning normally,” Goodman said.

The research team said that this study is a first step in understanding the effects of microplastics on human health, but the results do confirm previously raised concerns about the effects of microplastics, especially for individuals suffering from respiratory disorders such as lung cancer, asthma, emphysema and pneumonia. Or as fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The migration of plastics toward the core raises interesting scientific questions for the team to consider going forward.

“We’ve seen this attraction to the core happen after just 24 hours, so we really want now to look at why these pieces get there and what happens once they get there,” Goodman said.

The researchers cautioned that although cells were exposed to common environmental levels of microplastics, they were directly exposed to In a liquid solution. The process of inhalation and exhalation cannot be mimic and can affect the amount a person inhales and swallows.

“We do not want to overestimate the harmful effects of microplastics on human health,” said Sang. “The reason why plastics are so widely used is that they are good materials for industry, construction, medical and research supplies, and consumer products. But there may be some long-term unwanted effects that can be particularly harmful to the growth of children and people with lung disease. We need to investigate even We have a better understanding of the potential cost . ”

Florida State University

Newspaper article

Its source Phys.org

picture: Science news for students


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