Effect assessment of ingested small microplastics and nanoplastics for human health through in vitro experiments and QSAR modelling

01 October 2021 → 30 September 2025
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Bio-informatics
    • Microbiomes
    • Transcriptomics
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Toxicology and toxinology not elsewhere classified
  • Engineering and technology
    • Environmental safety and health of nanotechnology
Micro- and nanoplastics Human health risk assessment Gastrointestinal tract
Project description

Plastic products are indispensable in our lives and in society. Unfortunately, they also have a large environmental impact with the effects of the smallest pieces called microplastics (1µm-5mm) and nanoplastics (<1µm) expected to be more profound due to their presumed capacity to migrate through cells. The potential human health risks related to plastic exposure cannot be neglected considering the plethora of plastic products we use in our daily lives. One of the major exposure routes is ingestion (e.g. through plastic bottles). However, the effects of the presence of plastics in our gastro-intestinal tract, are still unclear as research has been focussing on the uptake of polystyrene spherical particles in cells at unrealistically high concentrations. Thus, there is a gap between current results and actual exposure. We hypothesize that both uptake and presence of plastics in our intestines can have an effect on our health, dependent on shape, size, polymer type and concentration. Therefore, this project will study the effect of plastic in our gastrointestinal tract in a holistic way, including the effects of presence of plastic particles (effects on microbiome, mucus layer, epithelial barrier) and uptake (mucus and epithelial cells). The heterogeneity of the plastic particles will be accounted for using in vitro experiments and a modelling approach. Hence, this project will contribute to unravel the human health effects of plastic particles in realistic exposure scenarios.