Research Report: Plastic found in ‘Garbage Patch’ fish

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.

By Lynne Friedmann

The first scientific results from a 2009 Scripps Institution of Oceanography voyage to the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre offer a stark view of human pollution of an area of the ocean, labeled the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” where debris is highly dispersed across thousands of miles.

Two graduate students with the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX), found evidence of plastic waste in more than nine percent of the stomachs of fish collected during the research voyage.

Of the 141 fishes spanning 27 species dissected in the study, 9.2 percent of the stomach contents of mid-water fishes were found to contain plastic debris, primarily broken-down bits smaller than a human fingernail. Based on this evidence, it is estimated that fish in the intermediate ocean depths of the North Pacific ingest plastic at a rate of 12,000 to 24,000 tons per year.

The results appear in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. News release at

Nanoparticles disguised
A novel method of disguising nanoparticles as red blood cells enables them to evade the body’s immune system in order to deliver cancer-fighting drugs straight to a tumor.

The method, developed by UCSD researchers, involves wrapping the membrane of a red blood cell around a biodegradable polymer nanoparticle containing a cocktail of small-molecule drugs.

Stealth nanoparticles, coated in synthetic material such as polyethylene glycol, are already being used successfully in clinical cancer treatment to deliver chemotherapy drugs. The coating creates a protection layer to suppress the immune system giving the nanoparticle time to deliver its payload. Synthetically coated nanoparticles can, however, only circulate in the body for a few hours. n the new study, nanoparticles cloaked in the membranes of red blood cells circulated in the bodies of lab mice for nearly two days without being attacked by the immune system.

The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. News release at

Flavonoids lessen diabetic complications

Research at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies suggests that a naturally occurring flavonoid (known as fisetin), found in fruits and vegetables, lessens the complications of diabetes.

In plants, flavonoids act as sunscreens and protect leaves and fruit from insects. As foods, they are implicated in the protective effect of the Mediterranean Diet. Researchers reasoned that, like other flavonoids, fisetin might improve a spectrum of disorders seen in diabetic patients.

Using mice bred to exhibit human type 1 diabetes, researchers fed the animals a fisetin-enriched diet. While the mice remained diabetic acute kidney enlargement associated with type 1 diabetes was reversed, high urine protein levels (a sure sign of kidney disease) fell, and other complications were ameliorated.

By the way, the most abundant source of fisetin is strawberries. The findings appear in the online journal PLoS ONE. News release at

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Posted by Staff on Jul 20, 2011. Filed under Columns, Health & Science, Research Report. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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