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Microplastics may be linked to Parkinson’s disease

Microplastics may be linked to Parkinson’s disease

Microplastics have already been detected at alarming levels in the environment and even in human organs, where they are found in the blood, brain, heart, lungs, feces and even the placenta, although their effects on human health are not yet fully known by science. Now, a new study shows that these small molecules can cause changes associated with Parkinson’s disease.

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Internal cleaning of neurons is weak

In the study published in the magazine Advancement of science, researchers caused exposure to microplastics. However, a 2019 survey actually estimated that humans consume between 39,000 and 52,000 molecules per year, depending on age and gender.

Based on new experiments, scientists have developed the idea that microplastics could be considered an environmental factor in the development of diseases. They point out that cases of Parkinson’s disease are increasing around the world, which may be linked to a higher intake of particulate matter in recent years.

Our study suggests that the emergence of micro and microplastics in the environment may pose a new toxicological challenge in relation to the risk and progression of Parkinson’s disease. This is particularly concerning given the expected increase in concentrations of these pollutants in our water and food supplies.

Andrew West, a professor at Duke University and lead author of the study

The study suggests that small particles of polystyrene, a type of plastic used in disposable items such as plates, cutlery and cups, were linked to the buildup of a protein known as alpha-synuclein. This happens inside nerve cells, causing problems for the body.

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Scientists explain that the accumulation of plastic particles with protein makes it difficult for neurons to clean themselves internally, which is considered one of the causes of Parkinson’s disease. However, more studies are needed to better understand these effects.

Furthermore, the researchers hope to conduct tests on humans soon, as the experiment in question was conducted on neurons grown in the laboratory and on mice with a disease similar to Parkinson’s. Information is from Duke University.

Neurons affected by microplastics are represented by green dots (Image: Liu et al., 2023/Science Advances)

What are microplastics?

  • Microplastics are small solid particles of polymer-based materials that are less than five millimeters in diameter.
  • In addition to taking thousands, or even millions of years, to decompose, they are spread throughout the planet, including in drinking water itself.
  • These materials can be divided into two categories: primary and secondary.
  • Primers are designed for commercial use: these are products such as cosmetics, textile microfibers, and fishing nets.
  • Secondary plastics result from broken down larger plastic items, such as straws and water bottles.