Plastic particles reach the brain, science confirms

They cannot be seen with the naked eye but they are everywhere, from the water we drink to the air we breathe. Scientists have confirmed the presence of microscopic plastics in practically every corner of the human body, including the brain. This is what is known so far about its impact:

A lifestyle that ‘poisons’

Plastic, omnipresent in today’s lifestyle, slowly decomposes into very small particles that end up scattered everywhere: they have been found from the summit of Everest to the Mariana Trench, 10 kilometers below the sea surface.


Researchers call them microplastics when their diameter is less than 5 millimeters (mm) and nanoplastics when it is less than 0.001 mm, in both cases sizes that are unavailable to the human eye.

He bodylike that of many other living beings, is becoming a ‘repository’ for these plastic microparticles that, due to their size, have a great capacity to invade organs and tissues.


A study by the Australian University of Newcastle, commissioned by the NGO WWF, estimated that each week they end up penetrating in the bodythrough what we ingest or the air we breathe, an average of 5 grams of plastic, the equivalent of a credit card.

Its presence has been confirmed in the placenta, breast milk, lung, liver, spleen, kidneys, blood or brain.


A challenge for science

Extracting, characterizing and quantifying micro- and nanoplastics in the human body and understanding their impact constitutes a challenge of enormous complexity that science is just beginning to explore.

“At the research level we are practically facing a blank canvas,” stresses the neuroscientist at the University of Rhode Island Jamie Ross in an interview with EFE, considered one of the pioneers in shedding light on the impact of microplastics on the brains of children. mice.


Ross confesses that she became a scientist with the aim of helping to answer the question of what different environmental factors lead to having two genetically identical twins, one developing Parkinson’s and the other not.

Or in other words, what causes Parkinson’s, neurological disorder that grows the most today, when there is no genetic predisposition on the part of those who suffer from it.


In multiple experiments with mice, in which they made them drink water with microplastics containing markers for three weeks, Ross and his team discovered that these particles cross the blood-brain barrier of the brain, producing an inflation similar to that of dementia, and manifest alterations similar to those who suffer from them.

How they escape the control of the brain

An almost parallel investigation led by the University of Vienna found that the smallest nanoplastics cross this biological barrier just two hours after being ingested.

“Having proven that microplastics pass the blood-brain barrier is a very relevant fact; we are talking about a highly selective and regulated permeability barrier to protect our brain, which only lets through what the brain needs,” emphasizes the cell biology researcher at the José Antonio Morales-García Complutense University, in an interview with EFE.


In a healthy person, when the nervous tissue becomes inflamed, the immune system fights against the agent that produces this inflammation and everything returns to normal.

The problem with diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s is that the inflammation becomes chronic and destroys a specific type of neurons in each case, in the case of Parkinson’s the dopamine (which is why the symptoms are motor), and in the case of Alzheimer’s a type of neurons called cholinergic, which regulate short-term memory in the hippocampus.


What science has already been able to verify is that, once the ‘security arc’ of the brain and having penetrated it, the microscopic plastic particles produce continued and prolonged inflammation in those same areas, giving rise to alterations similar to those of these diseases.

Despite the enormous complexity of advancing in this field, research with mice, the animal used most in neuroscience, has also discovered that these particles affect communication between neurons and the production of neurotransmitters.


The result would be similar to someone whose mobile keyboard is unknowingly altered and when it comes to writing their message it is incomprehensible, exemplifies the Complutense researcher.

Sufficient evidence to prevent

Beyond the findings known so far, science still has a whole canvas to paint to offer a clearer picture of how these tiny plastic challenges manage to cross the barrier of brain protection and what is their life cycle once they are inside.

Although the scientific information is still limited, the researchers consulted maintain that “there is sufficient evidence” to prevent exposure to plastic pollution as much as possible, and to leave aside everything we use composed of or wrapped in this material if it is not strictly necessary. .

(With information from EFE)


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