Acute Exposure to Microplastics Induced Changes in Behavior and Inflammation in Young and Old Mice

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Scientists find that mice exposed to microplastics through water experience behavioral, brain, liver, and immune system effects. These effects seemed to be more pronounced in older mice.

Abstract: Environmental pollutants have become quite ubiquitous over the past two centuries; of those, plastics, and in particular, microplastics (<5 mm), are among the most pervasive pollutants. Microplastics (MPs) have found their way into the air, water system, and food chain and are either purposely produced or are derived from the breakdown of larger plastic materials. Despite the societal advancements that plastics have allowed, the mismanagement of plastic waste has become a pressing global issue. Pioneering studies on MPs toxicity have shown that exposure to MPs induces oxidative stress, inflammation, and decreased cell viability in marine organisms. Current research suggests that these MPs are transported throughout the environment and can accumulate in human tissues; however, research on the health effects of MPs, especially in mammals, is still very limited. This has led our group to explore the biological and cognitive consequences of exposure to MPs in a rodent model. Following a three-week exposure to water treated with fluorescently-labeled pristine polystyrene MPs, young and old C57BL/6J mice were assessed using behavioral assays, such as open-field and light–dark preference, followed by tissue analyses using fluorescent immunohistochemistry, Western blot, and qPCR. Data from these assays suggest that short-term exposure to MPs induces both behavioral changes as well as alterations in immune markers in liver and brain tissues. Additionally, we noted that these changes differed depending on age, indicating a possible age-dependent effect. These findings suggest the need for further research to better understand the mechanisms by which microplastics may induce physiological and cognitive changes.

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