Universiteit Leiden

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PhD defence

Developmental effects of polystyrene nanoparticles in the chicken embryo

  • M. Wang
Tuesday 16 January 2024
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof.dr. M.K. Richardson
  • Prof.dr. M.G. Vijver


There is concern about the threat that nanoplastics (NPs) may pose to both wildlife and humans. This thesis explores the mechanisms of toxicity of polystyrene nanoparticles (PS-NPs) in chicken embryo. In Chapter 1, I review the literature on MPs and NPs, and their potential risks to humans and animals. In Chapter 2, I show that the exposure of chicken embryos to PS-NPs produces malformations in the neural tube, eyes, and tail. Chapter 3 details the heart malformations caused by PS-NPs. I propose that the mechanisms of PS-NP toxicity include the selective binding of PS-NPs to neural crest cells, leading to the death and impaired migration of those cells (Chapter 4). My data support this model, indicating that most of the malformations I observe are in organs that depend for their normal development on neural crest cells. My findings are a matter of concern given the large and growing burden of nanoplastics in the environment, and the fact that they are being considered as drug-delivery agents in nanomedicine. They also suggest that NPs may pose a potential health risk to the developing embryo. Further work is needed to determine how PS-NPs become distributed in the body.

PhD dissertations

Approximately one week after the defence, PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

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