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Nano-sized plastics can penetrate and penetrate cell membranes

In this study, we used molecular modeling of membrane structures and the PAMPA method to study the membrane permeability of microplastics. In the image on the left, the preferred position for PET plastic in the simulation is the surface of the membrane. In the image on the right, the PAMPA method was used to examine the movement of the plastic across the membrane between the two chambers.Credit: University of Eastern Finland

The occurrence of microplastics in nature is also widely studied at the University of Eastern Finland. However, little is known about the health effects of microplastics, and there is a lack of understanding of the transport of microplastics to the human body. The possible health consequences associated with plastics can be caused by the plastic compounds themselves or the environmental toxins they carry. Many known fat-soluble environmental toxins and heavy metals are known to be able to adhere to the surface of small plastic particles. This is why it is important to investigate the mechanism of transport of microplastics to the human body. However, sufficient research methods have not been developed for this transport study. Another important challenge in microplastic research is the lack of standardized methods.


With the help of molecular modeling, researchers at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of East Finland analyzed the behavior and transport of nano-sized microplastics in bimolecular membranes that mimic cell membranes. Researchers performed simple molecular dynamics simulations using well-known and widely used polyethylene (PE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) particles.

cell film The permeability of ground PE and PET plastics was also investigated using PAMPA, the Parallel Artificial Membrane Permeability Assay method. This method is commonly used to investigate the passive absorption of pharmaceuticals, but has not previously been used in microplastic research. The PAMPA method was used to investigate the amount of material permeating the membrane. The amount of plastic that penetrates the artificial membrane was measured by NMR spectroscopy at regular intervals.

In both experiments, the movement of molecules was controlled only by the difference in concentration on different sides of the membrane and the occasional movement caused by heat. In other words, these methods provided information on the passive penetration of molecules through the membrane.

In Computer simulation, PE particles were found to prefer the center of the lipid membrane as their location. In the PAMPA experiment, PE plastic partially penetrated the membrane, but the permeability of the membrane decreased significantly over time, probably due to the accumulation of plastic in the membrane. In the simulation, the preferred position of the PET particles was, to some extent, the surface portion of the membrane, and in the experiment they penetrated the membrane fairly well. According to this study, the properties of the membrane structure were not significantly affected by the individual plastics.

This research provides a starting point for further development of computer simulation and experimental methods to meet the needs of microplastic research.Quite a lot of information is still actively needed shipping Effects of microplastics such as binding to transporter proteins, potential phagocytosis, and toxic effects on cells.


Microplastics are widely distributed in tropical soils


For more information:
Interactions between Joni Järvenpää et al, PE and PET oligomers and the membrane double layer, Scientific Reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-022-06217-4

Quote: Nano-sized plastics can invade and penetrate cell membranes (February 17, 2022).

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Nano-sized plastics can penetrate and penetrate cell membranes

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