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Astrid Saraceni

Phd thesis

Environmental pollution caused by plastic waste is a well-known global issue. Although environmental damages are clearly visible, the impact of macro- and microplastic particles (MPs) on living organisms is not yet well understood. MPs are plastic particles <5 mm in diameter that for a long time have been considered inert and non-toxic. Interestingly, it has been recently found that they can distribute systemically within an organism inducing various damages in different tissues. Although at present there is no evidence of a direct action of MPs on the endocrine system, there is instead growing evidence of the potential of MPs to be vehicles of a wide range of environmental contaminants such as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and Hydrophobic Organic Contaminants (HOCs), including Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs). Some indirect effects of MPs may therefore be linked to these chemicals leached or adsorbed on the particles.

To have a better understanding of the impact of these emerging contaminants on wildlife and human health, in particular relating to metabolism and reproduction, in vivo and in vitro studies are conducted: both zebrafish embryos (Danio rerio) and different cell lines (adipocytes, hepatocytes, and neurons) are exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of MPs or EDCs, and then to MPs in combination with EDCs.

In this project, the in vivo approach allows to evaluate MPs / EDCs uptake and developmental toxicity, and the effects of the exposure on the development of specific hypothalamic systems controlling metabolism and reproduction; while in vitro studies allow the assessment of MPs uptake, MPs - EDCs cytotoxicity and metabolic disruption and, in the end, the identification of specific intracellular mechanisms of endocrine disruption driven by selected substances.

The results of these tests will clarify the role of MPs as vehicles of other contaminants helping to scientifically assess their potential impact on human health.


Last update: 15/02/2024 11:38
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