Nanotechnology promises low-cost method to squash superbugs

While we push for the development of atomically precise productive nanosystems to manufacture microscopic robots for advanced nanomedicine, current day nanotechnology is providing promising candidates for near-term treatment of unmet medical needs: drug delivery vehicles, scaffolds for tissue engineering, and now, a way to kill drug-resistant “superbugs” while sparing blood cells. This advance is described over at Nanotechnology Now. From “IBN and IBM Co-Develop New Weapon Against Drug-Resistant Superbugs“:

Scientists at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) and IBM Research – Almaden have developed the first biodegradable polymer nanoparticles to combat drug-resistant superbugs, such as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). These nanoparticles can selectively kill the bacteria without destroying healthy red blood cells, and being biodegradable, have great potential to treat infectious diseases in the body. This was reported today in the leading scientific journal, Nature Chemistry [(2011) DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1012].

According to Dr Yiyan Yang, IBN Group Leader and one of the project’s lead scientists, “Our antimicrobial polymers can successfully inhibit the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria without inducing hemolysis or causing significant toxicity because only a low concentration would be required. In addition, unlike existing polymers that do not form a secondary structure before interacting with the microbial membrane, our polymers can easily self-assemble into nanoparticles when dissolved in water to eradicate the bacteria completely.”

… The starting materials of the novel polymer are inexpensive and the synthesis is simple and scalable for future clinical applications. These biodegradable nanoparticles could be topically applied to the skin or injected into the body to treat MRSA skin infections. It could also be developed into consumer products such as deodorants, table wipes and preservatives. Other potential applications include treatment for wound healing, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and lung infections.

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