05 July 2012

IBM's Nano Approach to Killing Drug Resistant Bacteria

Chemists at IBM Research have been working to create "ninja polymers" that can target MRSA-infected cells in the human body and destroy their harmful payload.

Bacteria such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are resistant to commonly-used antibiotics. IBM has drawing upon its experiences with semiconductor technology to create antibiotic-free bacteria killers. While they were researching ways to etch silicon wafers at a smaller scale than currently possible, they found some materials that could produce an electrostatic charge when chained together to form a polymer.

When these "ninja polymers" are introduced to the bloodstream, they self-assemble into biocompatible nanostructures that are electrostatically drawn to infected cells while not affecting healthy ones. When the reach those cells, they destroy the bacteria and then biodegrade with no side effects or accumulation within the body. Because the attack is physical, rather than chemical, the bacteria are les likely to be able to build up resistance to it.

These sticky nanostructures work in a very different way to antibiotics, according topolymer chemist Jim Hedrick. "They try to mimic what the immune system does: the polymer attaches to the bacteria's membrane and then facilitates destabilisation of the membrane. It falls apart, everything falls out and there's little opportunity for it to develop resistance to these polymers."

In addition to being useful vehicles for the delivery of drugs, these polymers could also be added to every day cleaning solutions. The research team believes that they could be used to replace the widespread distribution of antimicrobial agents found in hand gels, antibacterial wipes, toothpaste and even socks. _Wired

An earlier description of this research

There are a number of physical approaches to attacking drug-resistant bacteria, which are less likely to induce bacterial resistance -- including metal ions such as silver and titanium.

Nanotechnological materials research is likely to discover large numbers of other physical approaches to destroying drug resistant bacteria before they can spread.

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Blogger Stephen said...

These polymers would have the ability to destroy any attacking bacteria, is that correct? If so then antibiotic resistance is pretty much a fear of the past then.

Friday, 06 July, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Wait and see. Bacteria are fiendishly resourceful.

Saturday, 07 July, 2012  

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