January 3rd, 2022
Microplastics Breach the Blood Brain Barrier in Newly Published Mouse Study
Microplastics, those tiny fragments that degrade and break free from the millions of metric tons of plastic waste we generate each year, are again in the news for all the wrong reasons. Scientists in Korea have recently published the results of their work demonstrating the toxic impact potential of microplastics on the mammalian brain. Their work adds to a growing body of literature demonstrating the threat that microplastics pose to humans, animals, and marine life – including weaking muscles, impairing cognitive ability, altering the shape of human lung cells and causing aneurysms.
Recently, researchers at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology fed mice polystyrene microplastics, measured at two micrometers or less in size, over the course of seven days. The mice model can provide insight into potential impacts on the human brain because, like humans, mice have a blood-brain barrier that offers protection by preventing the entry of most foreign substances into the brain. However, this study demonstrated that microplastics were able to make their way through the blood brain barrier with just one week of exposure.
Once these microplastics breached the blood-brain barrier, the scientists found these microplastics accumulated and negatively impacted the microglial cells in the brain – causing the cells to essentially kill themselves due to the presence of the foreign microplastics. Microglial cells are a key brain cell for maintaining a healthy central nervous system, and humans can ill afford the premature death of these cells. These findings add to the troubling body of literature on microplastics that is rapidly accumulating and clearly showing the potential for profound negative health effects on the human body.
However, one small piece of potentially good news on plastics use comes from a different group of scientists who have recently demonstrated the potential for development of a new, biodegradable plastic made from DNA and vegetable oil. A similar, recyclable, alternative plastics initiative is also underway at Colorado State University, where researchers are trying to develop a new type of plastic that can be easily broken down into its chemical building block and reformed into final products. These initiatives cannot come soon enough. In the meantime, if you want to join the effort to revamp America’s plastics industry, contact your state and federal congressional representatives and let them know you support a phase out of traditional plastics manufacturing. And if you suspect your health has been negatively impacted by microplastics contamination, you should contact an experienced law firm right away to explore your rights.