Video: Nanosponge decoy fights superbug infections

April 29, 2014 by Miles O'brien
Nanosponge decoy fights superbug infections
Medicated adhesive patches have become a preferred method of delivery for everything from nicotine to hormones to motion sickness medication. Researchers at Drexel University are trying to expand the possibilities of this system--called transdermal delivery--with the help of a cleverly designed delivery vehicle and an ultrasonic "push," or pressure from sound waves. The advantage of transdermal drug delivery is the ability to regulate the release of medication into the bloodstream and promote a more direct interaction of the treatment with the affected area. But the challenge of this method is that the skin is very good at protecting the body from invaders--even the helpful kind. Steven P. Wrenn, of Drexel's College of Engineering, and Peter A. Lewin, from Drexel's School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, lead a team that is investigating the molecular architecture of human skin and certain promising drugs and compounds, as well as the mechanics of an ultrasound interface necessary to broaden the capabilities of transdermal drug delivery. Their work is part of a larger trend: More and more, researchers are exploring advanced materials and manufacturing techniques for biomedical applications. New, high-precision technologies and more rapid, personalized fabrication methods allow engineers to design on smaller scales, such as those required to traverse the human body. Credit: Drexel University

Our first instinct with infection in the body is often to find it and get rid of it! But, engineer Liangfang Zhang had another idea. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Zhang and his team at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), have created a nanosponge to combat drug-resistant infections, such as those caused by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The nanosponge, made from biocompatible, biodegradable polymer nanoparticles, is camouflaged with a membrane. It circulates in the bloodstream, absorbing the toxins produced by infection. One red blood cell membrane can be used as a cloak for more than 3,000 of these stealthy nanosponges. Once the nanosponges are fully loaded with toxins, they are safely disposed of by the liver. They are designed to work with any type of infection or poison that attacks the cellular membrane.

Zhang is working closely with doctors and students at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center on this "nano" approach to tackling infections. He has been testing his approach on mice, with nearly a 100 percent success rate against . Human clinical trials are the next step!

The video will load shortly

Explore further: Nanoparticles disguised as red blood cells deliver cancer-fighting drugs

Related Stories

'Nanosponge vaccine' fights MRSA toxins

December 1, 2013

Nanosponges that soak up a dangerous pore-forming toxin produced by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) could serve as a safe and effective vaccine against this toxin. This "nanosponge vaccine" enabled the ...

New MRSA superbug emerges in Brazil

April 17, 2014

An international research team led by Cesar A. Arias, M.D., Ph.D., at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) has identified a new superbug that caused a bloodstream infection in a Brazilian patient. ...

Recommended for you

Graphene under pressure

August 25, 2016

Small balloons made from one-atom-thick material graphene can withstand enormous pressures, much higher than those at the bottom of the deepest ocean, scientists at the University of Manchester report.

Designing ultrasound tools with Lego-like proteins

August 25, 2016

Ultrasound imaging is used around the world to help visualize developing babies and diagnose disease. Sound waves bounce off the tissues, revealing their different densities and shapes. The next step in ultrasound technology ...

Nanovesicles in predictable shapes

August 25, 2016

Beads, disks, bowls and rods: scientists at Radboud University have demonstrated the first methodological approach to control the shapes of nanovesicles. This opens doors for the use of nanovesicles in biomedical applications, ...

'Artificial atom' created in graphene

August 22, 2016

In a tiny quantum prison, electrons behave quite differently as compared to their counterparts in free space. They can only occupy discrete energy levels, much like the electrons in an atom - for this reason, such electron ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.