Study shows plastics disrupting metabolism of lung and liver cells
Though we have much to learn about the health impacts of exposure to tiny plastic particles, studies continue to shed important light on how they might behave in the human body. The latest findings in this space center on liver and lung cells, which lab research has shown can ingest nano-scale plastic particles and undergo metabolic changes as a result.
Amid the many discoveries being made around plastic waste and its path through the environment, studies have begun to delve into the potential impacts on the human body. This research does have its limitations, but in the past couple of years we’ve seen scientists demonstrate toxic effects of plastic particles on human cells and shown how they can alter the shape of lung cells specifically. Earlier this year, we also saw plastic particles found deep in live human lungs for the first time.
A research team from China and Hong Kong has now built on this with a new study focusing on plastic particles measuring just 80 nanometers across. The team subjected human liver and lung cells to these nanoplastics in the laboratory and found that the particles entered the cells within two days, but did so without killing them.
By tracking the compounds released by the cells’ mitochondria, however, the team discovered some changes taking place. The more the cells were subjected to nanoplastics, the more they released reactive oxygen species, amino acids, peptides and other compounds. This suggests several metabolic processes within the cell were disrupted and altered, and that some of the mitochondria pathways had become dysfunctional.
Though very different to studying the effects of plastic particles in the human body, the research does offer further evidence that they could cause key alterations in cells that pose a threat to organs, according to the team.
The research was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Source: American Chemical Society