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Micro- and nanoplastics, MNPs, proven to help cancer cells spread

Recent research has brought to light significant concerns regarding the interaction between micro- and nanoplastic particles (MNPs) and cancer cells within the human gastrointestinal tract.

Spearheaded by CBmed GmbH in Graz, and involving collaborations with the University of Vienna, the Medical University of Vienna, and several other entities, the study provides crucial insights into the persistence and potential hazards of MNPs.

Published in Chemospheres, this research delineates the behaviors of these tiny pollutants in the human body, revealing information critical to understanding their health effects.

Lifecycle of MNPs in the human body

Recognized as a primary depot for MNPs, the human gastrointestinal tract receives a significant weekly dose of these particles, akin to the weight of a credit card.

This investigation discovered that MNPs outstay their anticipated duration within cellular structures, enduring through successive cell divisions.

This phenomenon results in a deeper integration of these particles into human biological systems, raising substantial health concerns. In particular is the role of MNPs in facilitating cancer cell migration and possibly expediting tumor metastasis.

This pivotal finding necessitates further research to elucidate the intricate dynamics between MNPs and cancer progression fully.

MNPs and the proliferation of cancer cells

Under the leadership of Verena Pichler and Lukas Kenner, the research team embarked on an exhaustive examination of MNPs’ interactions with colon cancer cells. Their findings reveal the incorporation of MNPs into lysosomes — cellular components tasked with waste decomposition.

Unlike organic detritus, MNPs resist disintegration due to their inorganic nature, highlighting a stark contrast in cellular processing mechanisms. This indigestibility suggests MNPs’ indefinite residency within the human body, with implications for cellular inheritance during division.

Furthermore, the study underscores a concerning correlation between the diminutive size of nanoparticles and their enhanced capacity to promote cancer cell migration, suggesting a proportionate increase in risk with decreasing particle size.

Responding to the MNP challenge

The revelations brought forth by Pichler and Kenner underline the gravity of MNP contamination in our environment and its relentless imposition on human health.

This investigation aligns with preceding studies that hint at MNPs’ ability to modify cell behavior and advance disease and flags critical areas for future inquiry, particularly concerning their long-term health impacts.

Given that MNPs meet significant criteria for concern under the EU Chemicals Regulation (“REACH”), the imperative for continued and comprehensive research is clear. Kenner’s caution regarding the potential for chronic toxicity emphasizes the urgency of these efforts.

In summary, this study signals an urgent call to both the scientific community and policymakers to delve deeper into the implications of micro- and nanoplastic contamination.

As we amass further evidence of their detrimental effects, the necessity for a concerted response to mitigate plastic pollution and safeguard human health becomes ever more pressing.

The full study was published in the journal Chemosphere.


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