Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Oligomer nanoparticle release from a biodegradable plastic triggers acute gut inflammation

Biodegradable polylactic acid (PLA) microplastics are shown to undergo enzymatic hydrolysis by lipases found in the human gut to generate PLA oligomers, which self-aggregate to form nanoplastic particles. The oligomers and their nanoparticles bioaccumulated in multiple organs of a mouse model and caused acute intestinal inflammation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Hydrolysis of PLA MPs by lipases in the gut can trigger acute inflammation.


  1. Roland, G., Jenna, R. J. & Kara, L. L. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Sci. Adv. 3, e170078 (2017). This paper reports that polymers derived from petrochemicals are beginning to be phased out.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Ncube, L. K., Ude, A. U., Ogunmuyiwa, E. N., Zulkifli, R. & Beas, I. N. Environmental impact of food packaging materials: a review of contemporary development from conventional plastics to polylactic acid based materials. Materials 13, 4994 (2020). This paper reports that the production capacity of PLA is increasing.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Lei, W. et al. An in situ depolymerization and liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry method for quantifying polylactic acid microplastics in environmental samples. Environ. Sci. Technol. 56, 13029–13035 (2022). This paper reports the ubiquity of PLA MP pollution in the environment.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Rosenboom, J. G., Langer, R. & Traverso, G. Bioplastics for a circular economy. Nat. Rev. Mater 7, 117–137 (2022). This review raises concerns relating to the leaching of oligomers from bioplastics.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Verena, N. S. et al. Evaluating the food safety and risk assessment evidence-base of polyethylene terephthalate oligomers: protocol for a systematic evidence map. Environ. Int. 16, 107387 (2022). This paper raises concerns relating to the leaching of oligomers from petrochemical-based plastics.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Miangliang, F. & Stapleton, H. M. Evaluating the bioaccessibility of flame retardants in house dust using an in vitro Tenax bead-assisted sorptive physiologically based method. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48, 13323–13330 (2014). This paper reports that intestinal lipases can degrade the flame retardant Firemaster 550.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

This is a summary of: Wang, M. et al. Oligomer nanoparticle release from polylactic acid plastics catalysed by gut enzymes triggers acute inflammation. Nat. Nanotechnol. (2023).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Oligomer nanoparticle release from a biodegradable plastic triggers acute gut inflammation. Nat. Nanotechnol. 18, 329–330 (2023).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Find nanotechnology articles, nanomaterial data and patents all in one place. Visit Nano by Nature Research