Open Research Projects

Investigating the impact of nano- and microplastics on hypertensive disease

Prinicipal Investigator

Dr. Nicola Wilck
Dr. Hendrik Bartolomaeus

Scientific interest within the context of the graduate college:

Environmental factors such as nutrition but also pollution can significantly influence the health-to-disease transition. The contact of the environment with the human organism, especially at interfaces such as the intestine and the immune system, is of crucial importance. Often, several harmful environmental influences come together to trigger a disease or promote its development. Through our project, we aim to create a better understanding of environmental factors that promote the development of cardiovascular diseases via immunological mechanisms.

Project description:

Plastic pollution is a major challenge in our today’s society. Micro- and nanoplastic particles have been found in various foods1 and recently the uptake of the particles into our organism has been proven by the discovery of plastic particles in human blood.2 Microplastics have been shown to alter the microbiome and induce inflammation.3-5 Current research thereby focuses mainly on the impact of plastic in healthy organisms. However, a large amount of our population suffers from diseases such as hypertension. In this project, we aim to investigate the impact of Micro- and nanoplastics in the setting of hypertension. The microbiome-immune axis has been shown to be of high relevance in hypertensive-related organ damage.6,7 We aim to explore the impact of plastic particles on all parts of this axis – the microbiome, the immune system, and organ damage by using a murine hypertension model. The project will help to enlighten the risks of plastic pollution for human health.


  1. Paul MB, Stock V, Cara-Carmona J, […], Braeuning A, Sieg, H, Böhmert, L. Micro- and nanoplastics – current state of knowledge with the focus on oral uptake and toxicity. Nanoscale Adv. 2020; 2:4350-4367. doi:10.1039/D0NA00539H.
  2. Leslie HA, van Velzen MJM, Brandsma SH, Vethaak AD, Garcia-Vallejo JJ, Lamoree MH. Discovery and quantification of plastic pollution in human blood. Environ Int. 2022; 107199. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2022.107199.
  3. Lu L, Wan Z, Luo T, Fu Z, Jin Y. Polystyrene microplastics induce gut microbiota dysbiosis and hepatic lipid metabolism disorder in mice.Sci Total Environ. 2018; 631-632:449-458. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.03.051.
  4. Jin Y, Lu L, Tu W, Luo T, Fu Z. Impacts of polystyrene microplastic on the gut barrier, microbiota and metabolism of mice. Sci Total Environ. 2019; 649:308-317. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.353.
  5. Qiao J, Chen R, Wang M, […], Liu Y, Wu C, Chen C. Perturbation of gut microbiota plays an important role in micro/nanoplastics-induced gut barrier dysfunction. Nanoscale. 2021; 13:8806-8816. doi: 10.1039/d1nr00038a.
  6. Wilck N, Matus MG, Kearney SM, […], Linker RA, Alm EJ, Muller DN. Salt-responsive gut commensal modulates TH17 axis and disease. Nature. 2017; 551:585-589. doi: 10.1038/nature24628.
  7. Bartolomaeus H, Balogh A, Yakoub M, […], Muller DN, Stegbauer J, Wilck N. Short-Chain Fatty Acid Propionate Protects From Hypertensive Cardiovascular Damage. Circulation. 2019; 139:1407-1421. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.036652.