Eating Polluted Seafood May Damage Humans' Natural Defense System
Samantha Olson - Medical Daily
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April 18, 2016

Top 10 Most Disgusting Things We've Done To Our Ocean (TopTenz)

Fish are packed with heart-healthy, brain-boosting nutrients, but a new study published in the journal Science Advances reveals a dangerous pollutant lurking in the muscle tissue of certain fish may be a threat to humans. A team of researchers from The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is among the first to find that ingesting these pollutants can interfere with the human body’s ability to get rid of harmful toxins.

"When we eat contaminated fish, we could be reducing the effectiveness of this critical defense system in our bodies," said the study’s lead author Amro Hamdoun, an associate professor in the marine biology research division at Scripps, in a statement. "It’s very important to make sure that those fish don’t end up in our food supply."

Humans have a critical protein called P-glycoprotein, or “P-gp," in their body that fights off harmful toxins. Like a bouncer at the door, P-gp works by expelling foreign chemicals from the body, and can resistant multiple toxic chemicals at once. But without it, toxins have free range to enter into cells with no restraint.

For years, experts suspected a class of pollutants known as the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) were unsafe and had the ability slip past the P-gp bouncer and inflict damage — they just didn’t know exactly how. So Hamdoun and his team set out to determine the cause by analyzing 10 different POPs that obstructed P-gp’s ability to function properly. They found that instead of slipping past P-gp, the pollutants attach themselves to the protein, ultimately stopping it from protecting the body against a variety toxins.

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