Exposure to nanoplastic particles and DNA damage in mammalian cells

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There is concern about human exposure to nanoplastics from intentional use or degradation of plastics in the environment. This review assesses genotoxic effects of nanoplastics, defined as particles with a primary size of less than 1000 nm. The majority of results on genotoxicity come from studies on polystyrene (PS) particles in mammalian cell cultures. Most studies have measured DNA strand breaks (standard comet assay), oxidatively damaged DNA (Fpg-modified comet assay) and micronuclei. Twenty-nine out of 60 results have shown statistically significant genotoxic effects by PS exposure in cell cultures. A statistical analysis indicates that especially modified PS particles are genotoxic (odds ratio = 8.6, 95 % CI: 1.6, 46) and immune cells seems to be more sensitive to genotoxicity than other cell types such as epithelial cells (odds ratio = 8.0, 95 % CI: 1.6, 39). On the contrary, there is not a clear association between statistically significant effects in genotoxicity tests and the primary size of PS particles, (i.e. smaller versus larger than 100 nm) or between the type of genotoxic endpoint (i.e. repairable versus permanent DNA lesions). Three studies of PS particle exposure in animals have shown increased level of DNA strand breaks in leukocytes and prefrontal cortex cells. Nanoplastics from polyethylene, propylene, polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene terephthalate have been investigated in very few studies and it is currently not possible to draw conclusion about their genotoxic hazard. In summary, there is some evidence suggesting that PS particles may be genotoxic in mammalian cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108468
JournalMutation Research - Reviews in Mutation Research
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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    Research areas

  • Comer assay, DNA damage, Micronucleus assay, Nanoplastics, Oxidative stress, Systematic review

ID: 369031329