Illustration of a tree in the shape of a liver, credit: Cinemanikor, courtesy of Shutterstock
Negligent disposal of Plastic has made it into a persistent environmental pollutant. Due to the environmental forces, plastic waste gets brittle and broken down into micro (<5mm) and nano (<1 µm) plastic (MP/NP) that are now ubiquitously present in aquatic, marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Studies have demonstrated plastic accumulation in wildlife due to ingestion. With its successful entry into the food chain, plastic and its associated additives can induce a direct health impact due to particle toxicity and leaching of harmful chemicals. While ecotoxicological models have helped in exploring the mechanism of action of MP/NP, the focus has now expanded to understand the human health at stake by taking an interdisciplinary approach to the problem.
The Hepatology Research Group at Derriford research facility in collaboration with the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth is exploring the biological response and ill-effects of MP/NP on the gastrointestinal health of humans. Established in-vitro cell culture models are being used to understand the toxicity and impact of MP/NP on human cells and tissue. The biological effects of the pollutant will be explored by analysing the exposed cells for highly sensitive endpoints including bioenergetics, oxidative stress, and genotoxicity analysis. The ex vivo instrumental analysis for evidence of plastic polymers in healthy volunteers and patient liver samples will be undertaken in the supervision of collaborated group. 
Plastics shown through a microscope