Researchers from IBM and the Institute of
Bioengineering and Nanotechnology discovered a nanomedicine breakthrough in
which new types of polymers were shown to physically detect and destroy
antibiotic-resistant bacteria and infectious diseases like Methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aurous, known as MRSA.
Discovered by applying principles used in
semiconductor manufacturing, these nanostructures are physically attracted to
infected cells like a magnet, allowing them to selectively eradicate difficult
to treat bacteria without destroying healthy cells around them. These agents
also prevent the bacteria from developing drug resistance by actually breaking
through the bacterial cell wall and membrane, a fundamentally different mode of
attack compared to traditional antibiotics.
The human body’s immune system is designed to
protect us from harmful substances, both inside and out, but for a variety of
reasons, many of today’s conventional antibiotics are either rejected by the
body or have a limited success rate in treating drug-resistant bacteria.
The antimicrobial agents developed by IBM Research
and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology are specifically designed
to target an infected area to allow for a systemic delivery of the drug.
Once these polymers come into contact with water in
or on the body, they self assemble into a new polymer structure that is designed
to target bacteria membranes based on electrostatic interaction and break
through their cell membranes and walls. The physical nature of this action
prevents bacteria from developing resistance to these nanoparticles.
The electric charge naturally found in cells is
important because the new polymer structures are attracted only to the infected
areas while preserving the healthy red blood cells the body needs to transport
oxygen throughout the body and combat bacteria.
Unlike most antimicrobial materials, these are
biodegradable, which enhances their potential application because they are
naturally eliminated from the body (rather than remaining behind and
accumulating in organs).
The antimicrobial polymers created by IBM Research
and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and were tested against
clinical microbial samples by the State Key Laboratory for Diagnosis and
Treatment of Infectious Diseases, First Affiliated Hospital, College of Medicine
and Zhejiang University in China. The full research paper was recently published
in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Chemistry.