Centre Studentships 2016
PhD studentship in Microplastics and Health
Environmental Research Group, King's College London
Interviews to be held early August 2016
Project Title: The potential for microplastics to impact human health
Supervisors: Dr Stephanie Wright and Professor Frank Kelly
Project Outline: Microscopic plastic litter is a ubiquitous global marine pollutant. Known as microplastics, they form through the wear and fragmentation of plastic exposed to the sea and sunlight, or can be purposefully made e.g. for exfoliating cosmetics. Microplastics have been reported in seafood species. Recent evidence also suggests these plastic particles can be airborne (ambient). Thus humans may be exposed to microplastics via both dietary sources and by inhalation. Microplastics can be small enough to be engulfed by cells and be transported by the lymphatic and/or blood systems, with the potential to bioaccumulate. They may contain harmful chemical additives incorporated during manufacture, or may adsorb pollutants from the surrounding environment, which could be released to tissues. Many of these are recognised priority pollutants with known adverse health effects. Additionally, the persistent nature, surface chemistry and irregular shapes of the particles may cause inflammation. Despite the potential for human exposure to microplastics, any health effects are unknown. This research aims to explore the potential for micro and nanoplastics to impact human health.
A range of microplastics reflecting the most common plastic types and litter items will be examined in a toxicological screen. Using model human cell lines and cutting-edge imaging techniques, the potential cellular toxicity and uptake, distribution, and elimination of microplastics will be assessed. These results will provide the first comprehensive insight into whether exposure to environmental microplastics has the capacity to elicit biological responses, negatively impacting human health. The proposed project provides an excellent opportunity to conduct novel multidisciplinary research. The outputs have application in a range of disciplines. Drug delivery; material design; food safety, and policy science all present future avenues for further research and application of results.
Studentship Stipend and eligibility
Successful candidates will be supported by the Centre’s training programme structure and will be provided with bespoke research training to ensure our students are equipped with the appropriate skills and experience to become first class researchers.