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Nanoplastics Found in Arteries Linked to Higher Heart Disease Risk

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In a groundbreaking discovery, doctors have detected minuscule nanoplastics within people’s arteries, revealing a concerning association with an increased risk of heart disease. Published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine, this research marks the first time that these tiny plastic particles, originating from degraded plastic pollution, have been directly linked to cardiovascular ailments such as heart attacks, strokes, or even death.

Nanoplastics, defined as particles even smaller than microplastics, have been increasingly prevalent across diverse environments, from the pristine snows of Antarctica to the ocean depths of the Marianas Trench. Moreover, they have infiltrated human biological systems, being found in bodily fluids such as blood, breast milk, urine, as well as in various tissues including the placenta, lungs, and liver.

The study, led by Dr. Raffaele Marfella from the University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, sought to investigate potential risk factors for cardiovascular diseases amidst the backdrop of escalating plastic pollution. The research team examined patients scheduled for carotid artery surgery, a procedure aimed at alleviating plaque buildup impeding blood flow in the major vessels supplying the brain, face, and neck. Following surgery, the researchers tracked the health outcomes of 257 patients over an average period of 34 months.

Remarkably, plastic particles, predominantly nanoplastics, were discovered within the arterial plaque of 150 patients. Subsequent analysis revealed a striking correlation: individuals harboring detectable levels of plastics exhibited a nearly fivefold increase in the risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event compared to those without such particles, after accounting for various demographic and health factors.

While this observational study underscores a significant association between nanoplastics and adverse cardiovascular outcomes, it cannot definitively establish causation. However, complementary laboratory investigations on cells and animals have consistently demonstrated the detrimental effects of plastic particles on health, reinforcing the plausibility of their role in exacerbating diseases.

Dr. Martha Gulati, a preventive cardiology expert at Cedars-Sinai, highlights the potential link between nanoplastics and inflammation, a key driver of cardiovascular pathology. Yet, she underscores the need for further research to ascertain whether nanoplastics directly induce inflammation or if other factors are at play.

Despite the study's limitations, confined to a specific patient cohort, its implications are far-reaching. Dr. Gulati emphasizes the urgency for broader population-based studies to ascertain the prevalence of micro- and nanoplastics and their impact on cardiac health.

Moreover, the researchers acknowledge the possibility of contamination during laboratory procedures, advocating for stringent protocols to validate their findings. Moving forward, collaborative efforts across scientific disciplines are crucial to elucidate the intricate relationship between environmental pollutants like nanoplastics and cardiovascular disease, a pressing public health concern deserving greater attention and action.


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