Chronic microfiber exposure in adult Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes).

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Microplastic fibers (MFs) pollute aquatic habitats globally via sewage release, stormwater runoff, or atmospheric deposition. Of the synthetic MFs, polyester (PES) and polypropylene (PP) are the most common. Field studies show that fish ingest large quantities of MFs. However, few laboratory studies have addressed host responses, particularly at the organ and tissue levels. Adult Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes), a laboratory model fish, were exposed to aqueous concentrations of PES or PP MFs (10,000 MFs/L) for 21 days. Medaka egested 1,367 ± 819 PES MFs (0.1 ± 0.04 mg) and 157 ± 105 PP MFs (1.4 ± 0.06 mg) per 24 hrs, with PP egestion increasing over time. Exposure did not result in changes in body condition, gonadosomatic- or hepatosomatic indices. PES exposure resulted in no reproductive changes, but females exposed to PP MFs produced more eggs over time. MF exposure did not affect embryonic mortality, development, or hatching. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of gills revealed denuding of epithelium on arches, fusion of primary lamellae, and increased mucus. Histologic sections revealed aneurysms in secondary lamellae, epithelial lifting, and swellings of inner opercular membrane that altered morphology of rostral most gill lamellae. SEM and histochemical analyses showed increased mucous cells and secretions on epithelium of foregut; however, overt abrasions with sloughing of cells were absent. For these reasons, increased focus at the tissue and cell levels proved necessary to appreciate toxicity associated with MFs.





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Hu, Lingling, Melissa Chernick, Anna M Lewis, P Lee Ferguson and David E Hinton (2020). Chronic microfiber exposure in adult Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes). PloS one, 15(3). p. e0229962. 10.1371/journal.pone.0229962 Retrieved from

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P. Lee Ferguson

Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Dr. Ferguson is an Environmental Analytical Chemist who joined Duke in 2009 after six years as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of South Carolina.

Research in the Ferguson laboratory is focused on development of novel methods for trace analysis of organic and nanoparticulate contaminants in the aquatic environment. Specifically, the laboratory uses high performance mass spectrometry techniques (e.g. UHPLC-Orbitrap MS/MS) to detect, identify, and quantify emerging contaminants (including endocrine disruptors, pharmaceuticals, and surfactants) in wastewater and drinking water. Another significant research thrust involves the development of sensitive trace analytical techniques for quantifying and characterizing single-walled carbon nanotubes in water, sediment, and aquatic organism tissues. For this work, near infrared fluorescence spectroscopy (NIRF) is used as a primary tool for resolving these novel nanoparticulate contaminants in highly complex environmental mixtures.

The analytical methods developed in the Ferguson laboratory laboratory (for both nanoparticles and organic contaminants) are applied to both process-oriented environmental chemistry experiments in the field and laboratory as well as to toxicity bioassays (including whole-organism assays and molecular endpoints). The overarching goal is to gain an increased understanding of how emerging contaminants are transported, transformed and induce deleterious effects within aquatic ecosystems.

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