The future: injecting tiny nanoparticles into our bodies to fight the superbugs against which our immune systems are powerless. How could that ever go wrong? Via Technology Review:
Researchers at IBM are designing nanoparticles that kill bacteria by poking holes in them. The scientists hope that the microbes are less likely to develop resistance to this type of drug, which means it could be used to combat the emerging problem of antibiotic resistance.
IBM’s labs aren’t equipped for biological tests, so the researchers collaborated with Yi Yan Yang at the Singapore Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology to test the nanoparticles. They found that the nanoparticles could burst open and kill gram-positive bacteria, a large class of microbes that includes drug-resistant staph. The nanoparticles also killed fungi.
The IBM researchers believe the drug could be injected intravenously to treat people with life-threatening infections. Or it could be made into a gel that could be applied to wounds to treat or prevent infection.
However, other drugs that work by this membrane-piercing mechanism have not been very successful so far. Those that have shown early promise on the lab bench either were toxic to animal cells or simply didn’t work in the complex environment of the human body.
More tests will be needed to say definitively whether the nanoparticles are safe and will work in people. Initial tests of the IBM particles with human blood cells and in live mice have been promising.