Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 33 n° 335

Nanoplastics alter intestinal microbiome and threaten human health

Posted by fidest press agency su giovedì, 24 dicembre 2020

Barcelona, A revised study led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain), the research centre CREAF (Spain) Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM) at the University of Aveiro (Portugal) and published in the journal Science Bulletin, verifies that the nanoplastics affect the composition and diversity of our intestinal microbiom and that this can cause damage to our health. This effect can be seen in both vertebrates and invertebrates, and has been proved in situations in which the exposure is widespread and prolonged. Additionally, with alteration of the gut microbiome come alterations in the immune, endocrine and nervous system and therefore, although not enough is known about the specific physiological mechanisms, the study alerts that stress to the gut microbiome could alter the health of humans. The health effects of being exposed to nanoplastics was traditionally evaluated in aquatic animals such as mollusks, crustaceans and fish. Recent in vitro analyses, using cell cultures of fish and mammals, has allowed scientists to analyse the changes in gene expression associated with the presence of nanoplastics from a toxicological viewpoint. The majority of neurological, endocrine and immunological tracts in these vertebrates are very similar to those of humans, and therefore authors warn that some of the effects observed in these models could also be applied to humans. Understanding and analysing the process through which these plastic fragments penetrate the organism and harm it is fundamental, as is determining precisely the amount and typology of nanoplastics polluting the environment. For this reason, researchers highlight not only the need to further study the specific mechanisms and effects on human cell models, but also unify analysis methodologies in order to conduct correct measurements of the quantity of nanoplastics present in different ecosystems. The study presents the main environmental sources through which nanoplastics enter the human body and summarises how they are able to penetrate the body: by ingesting them, occasionally inhaling them, and very rarely by being in contact with human skin. Once they are ingested, up to 90% of the plastic fragments that reach the intestine are excreted. However, one part is fragmented into nanoplastics which are capable, due to their small sixe and molecular properties, to penetrate the cells and cause harmful effects. The study establishes that alterations in food absorption have been described, as well as inflammatory reactions in the intestinal walls, changes in the composition and functioning of the gut microbiome, effects on the body’s metabolism and ability to produce, and lastly, alterations in immune responses. The article alerts about the possibility of a long-term exposure to plastic, accumulated throughout generations, could give way to unpredictable changes even in the very genome, as has been observed in some animal models. The review study acknowledges that different techniques are being tested to eliminate nanoplastics from the water, such as filtration, centrifugation and flocculation of wastewater, and the treatement of rainwater. Although the results are promising, they are limited to treating larger particles of plastics, and therefore until date no effective solution has been found for the elimination of nanoplastics from the environment. By Adriana Clivillé abstract)

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