Klinisk institutt 1

Midtveisevaluering - Alice Refosco

Midtveisevaluering for ph.d.-graden ved Universitetet i Bergen for kandidat Alice Refosco


Alice Refosco er tilknyttet Klinisk institutt 1. Veiledere er Jutta Dierkes, Gülen Arslan Lied, Anders Goksøyr og Tanja Kögel


Health effects of microplastics


Increasing plastics production, their low biodegradability, and mismanagement of plastic waste led to increasing plastic pollution and has therefore become of critical concern for the environment and human health. Most plastic debris persist in the environment, and will eventually be fragmented into smaller particles, known as microplastics (MP). Lately, increasing numbers of studies have shown that MP are an emerging threat both to marine and terrestrial ecosystems. It is also a potential threat to human health through consumption of contaminated food.

Numerous organisms, from low to high trophic level, are shown to ingest MP. However, most of the exposure studies investigating effects of MP used smooth round plastic beads with defined size. This, however, does not reflect exposure of biota, including humans, in the environment and through the food web, as MP have different size and shape. Dietary intake of MP would eventually lead to MP uptake into tissues, body fluids or organs through the gut, and/or excretion with feces. However, very little is known about the intake and physiological effects of microplastics in humans.

During the course of this project, exposure material with a continuous size distribution and angled fragments will be produced. This represents a first step towards a more realistic scenario of MP exposure studies. For ethical reasons, MP toxicity and uptake cannot be studied in humans. Therefore, mammal laboratory animals are suitable model organisms to study the potential impact of MP and transfer the acquired knowledge to humans. The produced particles will be used in a rat exposure experiment to investigate whether the gut permeability and the uptake of MP are increased in conditions with damaged gut mucosa, mimicking inflammatory bowel disease.

Moreover, the particles will also be used to investigate possible health effects on blood cells, with the focus on neutrophil- and platelet-platelet interactions. This is interesting in light of new studies showing the presence of microplastic in human blood, umbilical cord and placental tissue.