Scientists have revealed the danger that microplastics and nanoplastics (MNPs) pose to living things. Research on mice revealed that ingested MNPs can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain.
The cellular wall that prevents pathogens and toxins from reaching the brain is called the blood-brain barrier. Although previous research has shown the movement of microplastics in the body, it was not known whether they could pass into the brain.
In the April 19 study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nanomaterials, polystyrene, a polymer used in the production of a wide variety of household items, was given orally to three mice. After 2-4 hours, samples from the brains of the drug-killed animals were analyzed.
The findings showed that smaller MNPs crossed the blood-brain barrier and reached the brain within two hours. Some of the larger particles given to the mice could not cross the barrier.
The scientists then wanted to study in detail how MNPs cross the barrier. Using computer simulations, the scientists identified a passive transport mechanism towards the brain. Thus, a new microplastic transport mechanism emerged.
Lukas Kenner, who led the research team, said that MNPs reaching the brain could increase the risk of inflammation, neurological disorders and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzhemier’s.
Kenner, a pathologist, argued that more studies should be conducted on the effects of MNPs, while at the same time their use should be restricted.
Chemist Oldamur Hollóczki, one of the signatories of the study, said: “With the help of computer models, we discovered that a certain surface structure is very important in the passage of plastic particles into the brain.”
MNPs are found in many living things because plastics are used almost everywhere. MNPs have even been detected in the placenta of babies.
MNPs in the gastrointestinal tract are associated with inflammation, immune response and cancer.