Impact of microplastics and associated contaminants on reproduction and development: a comparative and multidisciplinary study on mechanisms of action and protective strategies
Partecipanti al progetto
Descrizione del progetto
The constant increasing use of disposable and plastic-made materials has inevitably allowed the spread in each compartment of the environment of new toxic contaminants.
Once released, plastic is degraded into smaller particles that can reach the micro and nano scale size, known as microplastics (MPs). The impact of these substances on living beings is worrying, since they are continuously exposed, especially via the food web.
Many research pointed out the ecological consequences of MPs, both on the environment and in aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, however their interaction with cells and tissues, at molecular level, remains still largely unknown. In addition, MPs can adsorb organic chemicals form the surrounding medium, increasing the exposure of wildlife to a mixture of toxic substances (the so-called Trojan-Horse effect). Once ingested or adsorbed through water and food, MPs may potentially have toxic effects on all the body districts, but one of the most susceptible systems is surely the reproductive one, since, in our era, a decline in gamete quality and fertility rate is evidenced, mostly due to the environmental factors. Considering that reproduction ensure the species survival, that it is constantly threatened by environmental pollutants, this project aims to reveal the reprotoxicity of MPs, alone or in combination with Bisphenol A and cadmium, on the reproductive function: from gametogenesis to embryo/larval development, as well as on the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonad axis and on metabolic pathways related to reproduction.
The strength of the project lies in its multidisciplinary and multilevel approach, that goes from molecular to the organism level, in the attempt to clarify modes and mechanisms of action, at a comparative level, with the use of invertebrate and vertebrate animal models, aquatic and terrestrial, as well as murine and human cell lines. The project intends not only to explore the mysterious fate of toxicity of MPs in the various animal models, to provide robust scientific data to improve health risk assessments and management for MPs, but also, and especially, to find molecules that could be used in preventing or counteracting their toxicity. Keeping this in mind, the efficiency of bioactive molecules, including those present in dietary supplements and nutraceuticals (i.e. melatonin, zinc, D-aspartate, beta-caryophyllene, algal phycocolloids) will be tested. All the participating Units, together with several stranger collaborators, will cooperate assembling their expertise in the field of comparative reproduction, physiology and ecotoxicology, aiming to an integrate approach that will have significant impacts in scientific, ecological and social fields.
Public engagement and correct dissemination of project results will be undertaken through different channels, to contribute to a better understanding of the problem of environmental and health effects of MPs pollution, at local, national and international levels.