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Nanoplastic Pollution Can Promote Conditions for Parkinson’s and Other Types of Dementia

Updated: Dec 31, 2023


Nanoplastic Pollution

Researchers have found that nanoplastics impact a specific protein found in the brain, causing changes that have previously been linked to Parkinson’s disease and other types of dementia, a new study has shown.


The study, published in the journal Science Advances, found that nanoparticles of plastic polystyrene — typically found in single-use items such as disposable drinking cups and cutlery — attract the accumulation of the protein known as alpha-synuclein.


“Our study suggests that the emergence of micro and nanoplastics in the environment might represent a new toxin challenge with respect to Parkinson’s disease risk and progression,” said principal investigator, Andrew West, PhD, professor at Duke University School of Medicine, US.


“This is especially concerning given the predicted increase in concentrations of these contaminants in our water and food supplies,” he added.


According to West, the study’s most surprising findings are the tight bonds formed between the plastic and the protein within the area of the neuron where these accumulations were congregating in the lysosome.


Researchers said plastic-protein accumulations were observed in three different models used in the study — test tubes, cultured neurons, and mouse models of Parkinson's disease.


West stated that questions remain about how such interactions may occur within humans and whether the type of plastic may play a role.


“While microplastic and Nanoplastic Pollution contaminants are being closely evaluated for their potential impact in cancer and autoimmune diseases, the striking nature of the interactions we could observe in our models suggest a need for evaluating increasing nanoplastic contaminants on Parkinson’s disease and dementia risk and progression,” West said.

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