A research team from the universities of Huelva, Seville and Córdoba (Spain) has confirmed that the American crab indicates the state of contamination of the waters where they live. The level of damage they present in certain organs will indicate “not only the amount to which they have been exposed, but also when they were subjected to the toxins.” Thus, greater knowledge is achieved from the environmental point of view, but also from the health point of view, since they can be harmful if ingested.

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As indicated by the Discover Foundation in a press release, by analyzing the changes in the animal’s metabolism, it is possible to know the impact of the levels of arsenic, cadmium and diclofenac in the environment where they live and can be used as a target for the application of practices that contribute to its detection and elimination.

Thus, when an organism is subjected to a toxic agent, the behavior of its tissues and cells is altered. The chemical reactions that occur in the assimilation of nutrients, called metabolic pathways, change to alleviate the harmful effects caused by these substances.

This is what these experts have analyzed with crayfish, presenting their results in the article “Targeted and untargeted metabolomic analysis of Procambarus clarkii exposed to a ‘chemical cocktail’ of heavy metals and diclofenac” (“Targeted and untargeted metabolomic analysis of Procambarus clarkii exposed to a “chemical cocktail” of heavy metals and diclofenac”, in Spanish) of the magazine Chemosphere where they determine the implication that exposure to these contaminants implies for the crustacean, characterizing the smallest molecules, the metabolites, and exploring how they behave.

One of the applications of metabolomics is precisely to establish biomarkers that allow an effective diagnosis of diseases. In this sense, this discipline offers precise information about what has happened in the organism in relation to a specific substance and how it has affected the appearance or disappearance of compounds, functions or structures in the cells and tissues of any living being.

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“Thus, we have confirmed the changes that occur in the metabolism of crayfish after being exposed to a series of toxins. In any habitat in which these alterations are present, we can talk about contamination”, indicates the University of Huelva researcher Tamara García Barrera, author of the article.

In this way, the experts have specified that the changes produced in the crabs exposed to the mixture of cadmium, arsenic and diclofenac, as they are usually present in the environment, take place in the gills and the abdominal muscle, and, in the case of the first two, mainly in the hepatopancreas, an organ of the digestive system of crustaceans.

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Brought from Isla Mayor, in Seville, the crabs were exposed to a “chemical cocktail” of these toxic compounds for 28 days, 21 days for exposure and seven additional days of purification, to find out their response.

Divided into two groups, one treated and the other control, the metabolic damage caused by this “cocktail” in the antennal glands, located under the antennae, formed by a sac that collects the toxic compounds and through which they excrete, the gills, was investigated. , spinal nerve, abdomen, and hepatopancreas.

Any substance in the body follows a specific route where it interacts with other compounds and exerts a certain function. Thus, the researcher explained that “vitamin C, for example, contributes to skin care through a series of chemical reactions that occur inside cells. Along the way, it can interact with other elements that promote or reduce its action, such as iron. This is the reason for exposing them to a ‘chemical cocktail’ and not to isolated toxins.”

The experts analyzed the route followed by different compounds in the body to find out what changes occur when exposed to these heavy metals. The study showed alterations in the metabolism of glycerophospholipids, fatty acids, amino acids and neurotransmitters.

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Thus, they have confirmed that the hepatopancreas, being an organ with a high metabolic activity, is where the greatest variations in the metabolic pathways occurred, although alterations were also observed after 28 days of the experiment in the abdominal muscle, the gills, the glands antennal and spinal nerve, in this order of importance.

Therefore, the analysis of these organs is an indicator of the level of contamination, since knowing the damage they present, it is possible to determine the exposure to which they have been subjected and establish the necessary guidelines to eliminate these compounds.

The works have been financed through the projects “Omic and metaomic study of the effect of contaminants through the intestinal microbiota-brain axis. From the animal to the cellular model (Mamomics)” and “Metabolism and Distribution of Active Pharmacological Principles in Organs of Mammals Exposed to Chemical Cocktails. Correlation with Human Intestinal Epithelial Cells’ of the Ministry of Science and Innovation”.

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