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Ground-breaking Study Reveals How Micro- and Nanoplastics Affect Human Immune Cells

Plastic pollution has become a global concern, with micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) infiltrating various ecosystems, including the human body. A new study [preprint available on Zenodo and in the Journal of Hazardous Materials ] sheds light on the interaction between MNPs and human macrophages, key players in our immune system. The publication 'Effect of micro- and nanoplastic particles on human macrophages' shows the uptake of polystyrene MNPs by human macrophages for the first time by TEM and also live cell imaging. Two PlasticsFate partners, FAU and UBT, carried out this project together with cooperation partners from University hospital Erlangen (FAU) and Anatomy Homburg/Saar.

The Study: Unveiling the Effects of MNPs on Human Macrophages

Researchers investigated the uptake of Polystyrene (PS) micro- and nanobeads (MNBs) by human macrophages derived from THP-1 cell lines and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Using advanced imaging techniques, they visualized the uptake process and evaluated its impact on cellular behaviour. Watch the live cell imaging here:

Key Findings: Insights into MNPs' Influence on Human Health

The study revealed that human macrophages readily internalize PS MNBs in a size- and concentration-dependent manner. Notably, exposure to these particles led to alterations in metabolic activity and increased cytotoxicity in macrophages. Moreover, higher concentrations of PS MNBs were associated with elevated necrosis, highlighting potential health risks associated with plastic pollution.

Environmental and Health Implications: Urgent Call for Action

With plastic particles found even in human blood, the study underscores the urgent need to address plastic pollution. Understanding how MNPs interact with human cells is crucial for informing policy decisions aimed at mitigating the impact of plastic pollution on human health and the environment.

Conclusion: Advancing Our Understanding of Plastic Pollution

This ground-breaking research provides valuable insights into the complex relationship between plastic pollution and human health. By utilizing innovative methodologies and focusing on primary human cells, the study paves the way for future investigations into the health effects of diverse types of MNPs. Ultimately, this knowledge will guide efforts to minimize MNP exposure and safeguard human health.

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