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The effects of plastic pollution on the human epididymis: an ex vivo, on-a-chip pilot study

Stoimenou, Eleftheria (2021) The effects of plastic pollution on the human epididymis: an ex vivo, on-a-chip pilot study.

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Abstract:The epididymis is an organ of the male reproductive system, responsible for the maturation and protection of the spermatozoa, while providing them with a microenvironment that ensures their survival. It is a single, highly coiled duct, that is a continuation of the seminiferous tubules in the testis. The epididymis is characterized by its pseudostratified epithelium, that is composed by four main types of cells. The epithelial cells of the epididymis are connected with a junctional complex, forming a continuous belt around the lumen of the duct, composing the blood-epididymis barrier (BEB). The BEB is one of defenses of the epididymis against the immune reactions, as spermatozoa are recognized by the body as foreign. As a result, disruptions in the BEB can lead to male infertility. Infertility affects 15% of couples globally and is caused by the male factor in approximately 50% of the cases. In addition, semen quality has been continuously declining, with a global 50-60% reduction in sperm density in the past 60 years. High concentrations of plastic pollutants, such as compounds leaching from plastic products, have been observed in infertile males. With environmental plastic pollution constantly increasing, it is only logical that plastics and their derivatives impose greater risks in human health in the future. In this study, the effects of nanoplastics, and plastic derived compounds bisphenol-A (BPA) and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) were explored on human ex vivo epididymis. Human epididymis tissue was dissected into single epididymal tubules, and was cultured either in a well plate, or using a microfluidic device, to perform the experiments with the plastic substances. The optimal fetal bovine serum (FBS) concentration, as well as the optimal incubation temperature for this tissue were also determined. Four different concentrations of FBS (0,1,10 and 15%) and three different temperatures (33, 35 and 37 oC) were tested. It was concluded that 1% FBS concentration and 33 oC improved the viability of the ex vivo epididymal tissue. Three concentrations of nanoplastics were tested (100, 200 and 1000 μg/ml), along with three concentrations of BPA (0.3, 3 and 30 ng/ml) and DEHP (0.5, 5 and 50 ng/ml) in separate experiments. The results of this study showed that the integrity of the epididymal tubule was affected severely by the 1000 μg/ml concentration of nanoplastics, while the two lower concentrations also affected it in a lesser extent. BPA did not affect the viability and integrity of the tissue. Conclusions could not be drawn about the effect of DEHP on the epididymis from the experiments of this study, due to technical issues. This pilot study improved aspects of culturing ex vivo epididymal tissue, while underlining the adverse effects of plastic pollutants on the epididymis, facilitating future studies on the impact of plastic pollution on male infertility.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:TNW: Science and Technology
Subject:42 biology
Programme:Biomedical Engineering MSc (66226)
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