Development of oral bioaccessibility tests
Development of automated systems for the detection and evaluation of the bioaccessible fraction of heavy metals and organic contaminants in solid environmental samples and food commodities with application in the analysis of human exposure risks.
The soluble or bioaccessible fraction of metals and persistent organic pollutants under environmental or human physiologically relevant conditions is considered the most potentially hazardous fraction, since it has the ability to penetrate and accumulate within a living organism, either through digestive, dermal or inhalation. A research group from the UIB have developed an automated system that allows to evaluate in real time the bioaccesible fraction of heavy metals (such as lead) and emerging contaminants (such as antimicrobials and plasticizers), therefore, to analyze environmental contamination in soils and sediments in a fast and effective way. These analyses are important in the field of environmental impact studies and in the remediation of degraded spaces by industrial activities or used as landfill.
A research group of the Chemistry Department from the UIB, in collaboration with the University of Porto, have developed a chemical model that imitates/reproduces the digestion conditions of the gastrointestinal tract system, allowing an in vitro evaluation of heavy metals bioavailability in soils, without in vivo analysis with animal models. For each analyzed soil, the chemical system automatically obtains extracts through a membrane of microdialysis that mimics the absorption process that takes place at the human intestinal epithelium. Each extract is analyzed to know the magnitude of the contaminating substance leached from the soil during digestion and what the permeation rate through simulated biological membranes is. Simulated membranes serve as indicators of contaminant bioavailability and, therefore, of the possibility to reach the bloodstream of the individual that has ingested the contaminated soil.
Liposomes are vesicles that simulate the lipid bilayer of cell membranes and which, due to their characteristics, can be used as carriers of substances, such as drugs or cosmetics, inside the body. A multidisciplinary research group from the Department of Chemistry of the UIB has proposed to use them to predict the effect of emerging contaminants, such as parabens and triclosan, which are used as preservatives in daily hygiene products. Specifically, researchers from the UIB have analyzed the bioavailability of these pollutants, that is, their ability to penetrate and interact with lipid components, as a bioindicator of toxicity, through the liposomes, equivalent to the way they penetrate through cell membranes.