In this study, researchers at Duke University followed how nanoplastics affect healthy brain cells.
Nanoplastics are a byproduct of large plastic objects that first become macroplastics, then microplastics and finally nanoplastics.
They have a very different effect than microplastics: nanoplastic pieces are so small that they can be absorbed into human cells and tissues.
The researchers concluded that polystyrene nanoparticles, which are used in disposable cups and egg cartons, among other things, attract and accumulate alpha-synuclein – a protein in the brain that accumulates in very large clumps in Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.
The ever-increasing amount of pollutants on land, in the sea, and in our food has scientists concerned about the ability of nanoplastics to grab onto vulnerable protein.
“Unfortunately, nanoplastics can affect this protein, which acts as a driver of brain disease, to such an extent that it causes changes in the protein that we know are associated with Parkinson’s disease as well as Lewy body dementia,” explains Andrew West, who is a professor of pharmacology and cancer biology. At Duke University and the study Lead author.
One Stady A study from April 2023 revealed that eating nanoplastics in food led to memory impairment in mice.
Meanwhile, a number of other studies have shown that nanoplastics can disrupt normal processes in liver and lung cells and could be linked to liver cancer.
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