Microplastics found to impact digestive pathways and organs

Researchers from the University of New Mexico have discovered that microplastics are significantly affecting our digestive pathways, making their way from the gut and into the tissues of the kidney, liver, and brain.

The findings of this study shed light on the significant impact of microplastics on our digestive pathways and the potential implications for human health. As research in this area continues, it is crucial to understand the broader implications of microplastic exposure and to explore strategies for mitigating its effects.

Eliseo Castillo, an associate professor in the Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at UNM, emphasized the pervasive nature of microplastics, stating, “Over the past few decades, microplastics have been found in the ocean, in animals and plants, in tap water and bottled water. They appear to be everywhere” 

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The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, involved exposing mice to microplastics in their drinking water over a four-week period, equivalent to the quantity of microplastics humans are believed to ingest each week. The researchers found that microplastics had migrated out of the gut into the tissues of the liver, kidney, and even the brain. Additionally, the study showed that the microplastics changed metabolic pathways in the affected tissues. Castillo highlighted the potential long-term implications of this exposure, stating, “Now, think about how that equates to humans, if we’re exposed from birth to old age” 

Castillo expressed concerns about the accumulation of plastic particles in the human body and the potential exacerbation of underlying conditions due to microplastic exposure. He also noted the impact of microplastics on macrophages, immune cells that work to protect the body from foreign particles. The researchers found that when macrophages encountered and ingested microplastics, their function was altered, leading to the release of inflammatory molecules. Castillo emphasized the importance of understanding the impact of microplastics on gut health, stating, “If you don’t have a healthy gut, it affects the brain, it affects the liver and so many other tissues”