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The effect of microplastics on the innate immune system

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Pollution of the (water) environment with plastic litter is an existing and pressing problem that has only received a lot of attention in the last few years. Plastics slowly degrade into microplastics by erosion. These microplastics end up in sea and fresh water where they can be taken up by aquatic life and end up in our gastrointestinal tract via our diet. Next to this, microplastics are industrially manufactured and used in cosmetics and different personal care products like toothpaste. In this way, microplastics contaminate our sewage system and could end up in our drinking water. Finally, microplastics are used as drug delivery vehicles, and traces of microplastics can be found in the blood of patients who receive intravenous treatment via plastic transfusion machines.
Little is known about the effect of microplastics on human health. If microplastics ‘arrive’ in our body, neutrophils are likely the first cells to phagocytose these particles. We have already found that human neutrophils phagocytose microplastics in vitro. These plastics are not degraded by the neutrophils and might, therefore, have an effect on their lifespan and function. In vitro experiments are carried out to investigate the effect of microplastics on neutrophil survival and functionality. Besides the in vitro experiments, mouse models will be used to study the effect of microplastics in vivo.
In this research project we collaborate with academic and private partners (IMPACT consortium: UMCU, Radboud University Nijmegen, VU Amsterdam, Rijkswaterstaat, KWR, RIKILT, Deltares, CytoBuoy and Beckman Coulter).

White blood cell isolation; cell culture; flow cytometry; functional assays (bacterial killing assay, neutrophil survival assay); microscopy (confocal) and possibly intravital 2-photon-microscopy.

6-9 months

Dr. Nienke Vrisekoop N.Vrisekoop@umcutrecht.nl
Prof. Dr. Leo Koenderman L.Koenderman@umcutrecht.nl