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For example, PET, the plastic used to make bottles, is ubiquitous in our natural environment. In a joint study, scientists from the University of Leipzig and the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) investigated the negative effects of small plastic PET particles on the metabolism and development of organisms.Their findings are now published in the journal scientific report.
The increasing use of plastic threatens ecosystems around the world. One of the major concerns is the presence of plastics in the form of small particles, also called microplastics and nanoplastics. These particles have been detected in drinking water, food and even the air. Nanoplastics are absorbed by humans and animals not only from water but also from food. There is concern that microplastics accumulate in the body over time. Its full effects on human health are still unknown, so it has been the subject of scientific research, such as the current study by the University of Leipzig.
Polyethylene terephthalate, known as PET, is a widely used plastic. It is used to make plastic bags and practical containers for food and beverages. So far, little is known about the detrimental effects of PET nanoplastics. In a recently published research project, a scientist from the University of Leipzig looked at the effects of his PET nanoplastics on zebrafish embryos.
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They found accumulation of small plastic particles in several organs of model animals, including liver, intestine, kidney and brain. Furthermore, the PET nanoplastics induced behavioral abnormalities in the embryos, and little movement was observed. “Our study provides the first insight into the toxicity pathways induced by PET nanoplastics and the underlying damage mechanisms in intact zebrafish larvae. Liver function is severely impaired and oxidative stress is present.” We found that PET nanoplastics also affect cell membranes and energy in living organisms,” said corresponding author Dr. Alia Matysik, a scientist at the Institute of Medical Physics and Biophysics, School of Medicine. .
Accumulation of PET alters the biochemistry of organisms
We studied zebrafish embryos using high-resolution magic angle spinning (HRMAS), a noninvasive analytical technique that applies nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to solid and soft matter. This scientific method has the advantage, for example, that substances can be examined from the outside without damaging tissue or inserting instruments into the body. This study combines studies of zebrafish cell and tissue metabolism with cellular assays and behavioral tests. “Using state-of-the-art analytical NMR methods, we have obtained a comprehensive, systems-level understanding of the metabolic pathways affected by PET nanoplastics. Observing how PET accumulation alters the biochemistry of organisms.” We were able to do that,” he says Dr. Matysik.
“The results of this study highlight the adverse effects of PET nanoplastics observed in zebrafish embryos, and may also play a role in mammals and humans. However, it is safe to assume that PET nanoplastics are destroying ecosystems.In any case, we need to prevent plastics from entering the environment.Perhaps avoiding this form of waste is in the near future. It will be a big challenge for the future,” says Professor Jörg Matysik of the Institute for Analytical Chemistry, who was involved in his wife’s work.
Scientists at the University of Leipzig also plan to continue research on this topic and investigate the effects of nanoplastics on brain function. “We’ve already seen PET nanoplastics build up in the brain. We now want to know if this affects brain function and neurodegenerative diseases,” she says. says Dr. Matysik.
reference: Bashirova N, Poppitz D, Klüver N, Scholz S, Matysik J, Alia A. Mechanistic understanding of the effects of polyethylene terephthalate nanoplastics on zebrafish (Danio Lelio) embryo. science officer2023;13(1):1891. Doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-28712-y
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