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Biodegradable nanoparticles aim to give antibiotics a turbo charge

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IBM researchers and scientists from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology will unveil a nanomedicine breakthrough---biodegradable nanoparticles that make antibiotics physically attracted to infected cells.

IBM researchers and scientists from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology will unveil a nanomedicine breakthrough---biodegradable nanoparticles that make antibiotics physically attracted to infected cells.

The breakthrough published in the journal Nature Chemistry Sunday goes like this:

  • Using techniques found in semiconductor manufacturing, researchers discovered polymers that can physically detect and destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • These biodegradable nanoparticles, which ultimately can carry drug payloads, assemble when they come in contact with water.
  • Inside the body, these nanoparticles create new structures that become attracted to infected cells. The structure targets bacteria membranes based on electrostatic interaction.
  • With precision, antibiotics can penetrate the cell (top right) and destroy it from within after getting a lift from the nanoparticles (bottom right).
  • The nanoparticles are then passed through the body naturally.

This nanomedicine application could represent a new drug delivery method to fend off drug resistant infections such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA) and other bacteria. James Hedrick, lead scientist for the project at IBM, said that the findings could lead to a wide variety of uses from healing wounds to emergency uses in a war.

According to IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, these nanoparticles represent a new way to target bacteria.

In a nutshell, the discovered polymers prevent drug resistance because they break through the bacterial cell wall and membrane. Typical antibiotic treatments aren't targeted and fail to destroy the cell wall and membrane of an infected cell. As a result, high doses of antibiotics are needed to knock out an infection and often nuke red blood cells too.

If these biodegradable nanostructures were manufactured commercially, they could be injected into the body or applied topically via common products such as hand sanitizer and wipes. Future papers will examine the use cases for these nanoparticles.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure