Monday September 23, 2019

Microplastics Found In 100 Percent Of Humans Studied: Research

Plastic is apparently showing up in all of us

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Microplastics, plastic, EU
Plastic bottles and other plastics, including a mop, lie washed up on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britian. (Representational image). VOA

In the first study of its kind, Austrian researchers have tracked the movement of microplastics into human beings. The results show that the plastic that is a ubiquitous element of human life is now also a constant element in the human body.

The research was presented at this week at UEG Week in Vienna, Austria, the largest gastroenterology meeting in Europe.

Follow the plastics

Two Austrian researchers, Dr. Philipp Schwabl from the Medical University of Vienna, and Dr. Bettina Liebmann, from the Environment Agency Austria, studied participants from countries including Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the UK and Austria.

Microplastics are particles of plastic less than 5 mm in size. They are often tiny plastic beads that are put in cosmetic products. A few nations, including the U.S., the UK and South Korea, have banned microbeads. But microplastics also are created when larger pieces of plastic break down over time, and plastic in general is everywhere. The U.N. estimates that about 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year. And the World Economic Forum estimated that Americans threw away over 33 million metric tons of plastic in 2014.

Microplastics
Courtesy – Philipp Schwabl. VOA

But this study, which was small, suggests that plastic, whether it’s bad for us or not, is already in all of us.

Study participants were asked to keep a food diary for seven days prior to taking part in the test. Then they turned over stool samples to the researchers who then looked for microplastics.

And they found them. Every single stool sample tested positive for the presence of microplastic, and up to nine different plastic types were identified.

Where is the plastic coming from? In the cases of this study, the plastic that showed up in people is associated with eating plastic wrapped foods, and drinking from plastic bottles. But most of the participants also ate fish, so Schwabl says that right now, “no exact conclusion on plastic origin can be made” on exactly where the plastic is coming from. Future studies should narrow that down.

Microplastics
Courtesy – Philipp Schwabl. VOA

What is it doing to us?

So is all that plastic making us sick? Schwabl says, for now, there are no definitive studies that suggest a danger to humans. But he says that in “animal studies, it has been shown that microplastics may cause intestinal damage, remodeling of the intestinal villi, distortion of iron absorption and hepatic stress.”

And the concern is “what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases,” Schwabl says. “While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver.”

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He was surprised, he says, to find that plastic is apparently showing up in all of us, and he expects the amount collecting in our bodies to keep increasing, unless the world drastically changes its use of plastic. (VOA)

Next Story

Scientists Reform Face Of Another Human Ancestor

Now, Scientists have come up with a reformed face of a human ancestor

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human, ancestor, scientists, sculpture
This image shows a preliminary portrait of a juvenile female Denisovan based on a skeletal profile reconstructed from ancient DNA methylation maps. IANS

Exactly what our Denisovan relatives who lived 100,000 years ago might have looked like had been anyone’s guess for a simple reason – the entire collection of Denisovan remains includes a pinky bone, three teeth, and a lower jaw. Now, Scientists have come up with a reformed face of a human ancestor.

Now they have got a face. Using genetic data, scientists have now produced reconstructions of these long-lost relatives.

“We provide the first reconstruction of the skeletal anatomy of Denisovans,” said study author Liran Carmel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

“In many ways, Denisovans resembled Neanderthals, but in some traits, they resembled us, and in others they were unique,” Carmel said.

Overall, the researchers identified 56 anatomical features in which Denisovans differed from modern humans and/or Neanderthals, 34 of them in the skull, according to a report published in the journal Cell.

For example, the Denisovan’s skull was probably wider than that of modern humans or Neanderthals. They likely also had a longer dental arch.

Rather than relying on DNA sequences, the researchers extracted anatomical information from gene activity patterns.

human, ancestor, scientists, sculpture
Using genetic data, scientists have now produced reconstructions of these long-lost relatives.
IANS

Those gene activity patterns were inferred based on genome-wide DNA methylation or epigenetic patterns.

To test the method the researchers developed, they first applied it to two species whose anatomy is known: the Neanderthal and the chimpanzee.

They found that roughly 85 per cent of the trait reconstructions were accurate in predicting which traits diverged and in which direction they diverged.

By focusing on consensus predictions and the direction of the change, rather than trying to predict precise measurements, they were able to produce the first reconstructed anatomical profile of the little-understood Denisovan.

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The evidence suggests that Denisovans likely shared Neanderthal traits such as an elongated face and a wide pelvis.

It also highlighted Denisovan-specific differences, such as an increased dental arch and lateral cranial expansion, the researchers said.

“Studying Denisovan anatomy can teach us about human adaptation, evolutionary constraints, development, gene-environment interactions, and disease dynamics,” Carmel said. (IANS)