Home > Staff > PhD students > Heinrich


Patrick Heinrich


Centre for Organismal Studies

Abteilung Tierphysiologie / Entwicklungsbiologie

Im Neuenheimer Feld 504

Phone: +49-(0)6221/54-5629

Fax:: +49-(0)6221/54-6162

e-Mail: patrick.heinrich@cos.uni-heidelberg.de




Dissertation title:

Development, improvement and application of cell culture systems for assessment of specific toxicity mechanisms associated with microplastic-bound pollutants.

Short description:

The increasing contamination of aquatic environments by microplastics has been in the focus of several recent ecological studies, however, the prediction of potentially detrimental effects is a challenge. There is proof that those particles are - due to their lipophilic surface properties - are able to adsorp and accumulate persistent pollutants present in water. On the one hand, this may increase bioavailability of those pollutants towards various aquatic organisms, e.g. due to uptake and direct contact with contaminated particles after ingestion, then again, certain models propose a cleaning effect, as pollutants may be removed from the water body and are eventually (permantly?) deposited in sediment.

Contemporary methods allowing assessment and facilitating modelling of such accumulation and cleaning mechanisms rely on extraction methods by aggressive organic solvents before (bio-)analytic assays are performed. This approach appears problematic in regards of indicating the actual bioavailability of adsorbed substances, which can only be assessed approximately.

This project will deal with the analysis of various particle-bound substances based on their effects without elaborate and problematic extraction methods, while maintaining conditions as realistical as possible. For this end, it will exclusively rely on animal-experimentation free cell culture based test systems, which excel at sensitivity, reproducibility and economic efficiency to clarify open questions concering the effects of microplastics in aquatic systems. The (eco-)toxicological endpoints investigated will include induction of 7-ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD), effectson the immune and endocrine systems, cytotoxicity as well as interactions with the genetic material (genotoxicity).

The project presented here is funded by the joint project "EPHEMARE" in the JPI-Oceans program of the European Union.




RTL-W1 cells in contact with polyethylene microparticles



EROD activity in RTL-W1 cells induced by Benzo(k)fluoranthene exposed directly and following release from polyethylene film.