First biodegradable antimicrobial polymer nanoparticles

How it Works?

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.

Researchers from IBM are already applying principles from nanotechnology to create potential medical innovations like the DNA Transistor and 3-D MRI. Most recently they have been working on a one step point-of-care-diagnostic test based on an innovative silicon chip that requires less sample volume, can be significantly faster, portable, easy to use, and can test for many diseases. Dubbed “Lab on a Chip,” the results are so quick and accurate that a small sample of a patient’s blood could be tested immediately following a heart attack to enable the doctor to quickly take a course of action to help the patient survive.