Researchers have found out how tiny plastic particles in the environment can enter the brain after being eaten, based on a study in mice.
Micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs), formed from plastic waste and pollution, pose an environmental hazard and it is already known that they can enter the body through ingestion.
The research by the Medical University of Vienna, and the University of Vienna, both Austria; the University of Debrecen, Hungary; Utrecht University, VU Amsterdam, both Netherlands; and Vassor College, New York, USA, found that when mice were fed the MNPs of polystyrene, these were detectable in the animals’ brains in just two hours.
This showed that the particles had crossed into the brain from the blood vessels (the hard-to-penetrate blood-brain barrier), and using computer models, the team found that this happened due to the involvement of a specific surface structure on the MNPs – a previously unknown mechanism.
Professor Lukas Kenner, at MedUni Vienna, said: “To minimise the potential harm of MNPs to humans and the environment, it is crucial to limit exposure and restrict their use while further research is carried out.”