This experiment is part of the Ocean Solutions Challenge Grant. Browse more projects

Metabolizing Microplastics for Human Health

San Diego, California
DOI: 10.18258/30056
Grant: Ocean Solutions
Raised of $5,000 Goal
Funded on 6/23/23
Successfully Funded
  • $6,055
  • 121%
  • Funded
    on 6/23/23

About This Project

Plastics have revolutionized material science engineering. However, the use of plastic has had unintended consequences on both human and planetary health. Recently, scientists have discovered microplastics in the bloodstreams of humans leading to major health consequences. In order to combat the microplastics circulating in our bloodstreams, we want to use plastic metabolizing bacteria to develop the next generation of probiotics and immunogenic RNA based therapies.

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What is the context of this research?

Plastic pollution is a major concern for both environmental and human health. Recently, scientists have discovered microplastics in the human bloodstream– making this an urgent public health concern. Microplastics contain the endocrine disrupting chemical, Bisphenol A (BPA), and evidence suggests that (1) BPAs have a detrimental impact on female infertility and; (2) a transgenerational impact on human health. In order to eliminate the harmful chemicals accumulating in our bodies we plan to utilize several biomedical research methods.

What is the significance of this project?

Microplastics in the human bloodstream are leading to hormonal imbalances and downstream reproductive health issues. These degraded plastic polymers have been identified as major endocrine disruptors' leading to infertility. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the leading cause of infertility among women. Recent evidence suggests that there is a relationship between increased exposure to micro-plastics in the human bloodstream and increased frequency of PCOS in pre-menopausal woman. While this correlation is newly identified, there is evidence supporting the correlation between a specific type of plastic waste, Bisphenol A (a chemical found in microplastics), and elevated rates of PCOS. We hope to develop new therapies to increase fertility rates in those exposed to microplastics.

What are the goals of the project?

Our goal is to utilize synthetic biology approaches to gain new insights into the biological mechanisms that allow extremophiles to metabolize microplastics that are harmful to both human and ecological systems. In our proof-of-concept experiment, we will first grow extremophiles known to metabolize microplastics. We will then expose these individual strains of bacteria to randomize mutagenesis. Once mutagenized we will put the different series of bacteria into parallelized mini bioreactors and observe their potential to metabolize different microplastics. After evaluating performance, we will then sequence the genomes of those bacteria and identify regions (both known and novel) that are associated with plastic metabolism and downstream byproducts of plastic metabolism.


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A portion of the funds will be used to purchase ten single-use bioreactors to grow plastic digesting/metabolizing bacteria/extremophiles. We estimate this to cost $4,000. We would like to purchase Ideonella sakaiensis, Pseudomonas putida, and Xylaria polymorpha, bacteria from AddGene and attempt to clone and edit their genomes to learn more about how they metabolize various types of microplastics. We estimate this to cost $500. We will require funds to sequence their genomes. We estimate sequencing costs at $500.

Endorsed by

The process of breaking down microplastics in our bodies poses significant challenges to human endocrine reproductive health. This seed project is both timely and presents a valuable opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of how the climate crisis is affecting long-term reproductive health in humans.

Project Timeline

Over the next year, we will like to conduct a series of proof of concepts experiments.

May 01, 2023

Get materials for project

May 10, 2023

Assemble bioreactor 

May 24, 2023

Introduce mutations in the bacteria 

May 24, 2023

Project Launched

Jun 01, 2023

Collect data on enzymatic activity 

Meet the Team

sara moaddeli
sara moaddeli


University of California, San Diego
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sara moaddeli

Sara Moaddeli is an undergraduate student at UCSD majoring in global health. She feels passionate about improving the social determinants of health and has focused her interest on studying the detrimental consequences that climate change has on human health. She's currently a pre-med and plans on attending medical school. It's important for Sara to be involved in a career where she's making a difference in both population health and clinical health.

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Project Backers

  • 3Backers
  • 121%Funded
  • $6,055Total Donations
  • $2,018.33Average Donation
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