Briefly, interactions between MNP and primary tumor cells obtained directly from CRC patients will be explored, and a suitable medium-to-high-throughput method for the detection and characterization of MNP will be established and optimized. Supported by supercomputing, the MNP interactions with molecular targets (e.g. proteins) and targeted drugs (against CRC) will be simulated. The effects of exposure to MNP on the microbiome and possible ‘re-balancing’ effects of probiotics to MNP-induced changes will be explored. The application of labeled MNP in vitro and in vivo (specific tumor models) will help to determine the mechanisms how MNP influence cell growth, primary tumor formation and spontaneous metastasis. For the latter experiments, suitable primary, secondary and weathered MNP will be prepared and physico-chemically characterized. With the newly established analytics, tissue sections of CRC patients will be screened for MNP load in addition to standard immunohistochemical staining. Integrating these data will allow for direct assessment of molecular events and biological risk caused by plastic particles. MNP must be seen as a public health concern and it is important to identify actionable steps, identified in the course of this project, to prevent disease.
Many of the project parts are scientifically and partly also technologically uncharted territory and therefore bear a certain uncertainty concerning a successful conduction. On the other hand, the scientific evidence generated within microONE will certainly have far-reaching consequences for society and its approach to plastics.