Scientists at Duke University School of Medicine have discovered that nanoplastics alter a particular protein in the brain, which results in alterations connected to dementias other than Parkinson’s. Worldwide, Parkinson’s disease affects more than 10 million individuals. Scientists are aware that a person’s lifestyle, genetics, and environment all contribute to the development of disease. Researchers at Duke University School of Medicine discovered that a particular protein in the brain is impacted by nanoplastics, which are minuscule plastic particles that break down in the environment and can seep into soil and water. These changes have been connected to Parkinson’s disease and other forms of dementia. Science Advances, a journal, published the study recently. Parkinson’s disease is thought to be the neurological ailment with the fastest global growth rate. According to research, the condition affects over 10 million people worldwide. For now, there is no treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Although the exact cause of the illness is still unknown, scientists do know that genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors all have an impact.
Parkinson’s disease is not usually heritable or transmissible, according to Dr. Andrew West, professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University School of Medicine and the study’s principal investigator. Environmental exposure to toxins and pesticides is thought to be a contributing factor in the disease’s risk. Dr. West told Medical News Today, However, the known environmental risks account for a very small percentage of what may be lurking out there, increasing our risk of getting sick. Once we have determined that there is a real risk of disease or that the disease will progress due to environmental factors, we can take precautions to reduce that risk. Mr. According to West, he and his colleagues first used various kinds of nanoparticles to help with biomarker assays for dementia and Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. By coincidence, they discovered that a protein called alpha-synuclein, which has been connected to brain disorders, could be greatly inhibited by some forms of nanoparticles.
In this study, three test tube models, cultured neurons, and a Parkinson’s disease-modeling mouse were utilized by the researchers. Dr. West and his colleagues discovered that the alpha-synuclein protein is drawn to and accumulates in response to nanoparticles of the plastic polystyrene used to make foam packing peanuts, egg cartons, and disposable drinking cups. Dr. West said, We discovered through various assays that nanoplastics may sever portions of the alpha-synuclein protein, which typically binds to lipids in the brain, and twist the protein into a form that may encourage aggregation associated with disease.. But the issues don’t end there; the plastics may also damage the machinery that is meant to break down aggregates, which are part of the lysosome, a component of the cell. Dr. West continued, We believe the interactions we observed in the model are driven by this ‘two-hit’ mechanism.
Microplastics are the first tiny particles formed when plastic degrades in the environment. After that, the microplastics keep breaking down to create new ones. According to a March 2022 study, people’s gastrointestinal tracts absorb roughly 5 grams of microplastic and nanoplastic per week on average. The general health of an individual may be harmed by both microplastics and nanoplastics, according to earlier research. For instance, studies have shown that nanoplastics may be connected to specific cancer types and can also interfere with the normal functions of lung and liver cells. Furthermore, there has previously been research on the connection between brain health and nanoplastics. According to studies that were released in June 2020, the brain can be adversely affected by micro- and nanoplastic exposure, which increases the risk of neuronal disorders. According to a study that was released in April 2023, mice that consumed nanoplastics had lower short-term memory and cognitive function.
According to Dr. West, these findings strongly suggest that technology should be developed to track the build-up of plastic pollution in the human brain and to track the susceptibility of various individuals to Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders based on their individual exposures. We could create laws and technological solutions to ensure that harmful nanoplastic actors stay out of our food and water if we understood the precise molecular makeup of these individuals. As for the research’s next steps, Dr. West stated that they hope to conduct longer-term studies using chronic dosing to find out how various nanoplastic kinds impact various molecular processes that are thought to be responsible for disease risk and progression. In order to make our lab models more informative, he continued, we also need to have a better idea of what lifetime exposures to different types of nanoplastics look like.. MNT also discussed this study with Dr. Rocco DiPaola, a neurologist who oversees the Movement Disorder Program at Jersey Shore University Medical Center’s Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute.
According to Dr. DiPaola, this study could add to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s disease and other disorders linked to alpha-synuclein. It has long been believed that a major contributing factor to the development of these disorders is a combination of genetic factors and an environmental trigger. It is an additional possible cause of these illnesses. When asked how readers can protect themselves from environmental factors that may increase their risk for Parkinson’s disease and other types of dementia, Dr. DiPaola said that while there is no way to mitigate all risks, limiting exposure to toxins, such as pesticides, would be one way to limit risk. Environmental factors are likely one of many factors that play a major role in the development of Parkinson’s disease. He continued, Previous environmental studies have found increased risk with exposure to well water, growing up in a rural area, and pesticide exposure.
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