Nanotechnology hope for antibiotics

Powerful new antibiotics are being developed that act like magnets to destroy bacteria and disease, according to a new study.

Researchers from IBM, the computer giant, say they are working on tiny particles known as nanostructures that are attracted to infected cells but do not destroy healthy ones. They say if the nanostructures are introduced to traditional antibiotic drugs they make them much more effective by targeting the right areas. In time the scientists hope the new structures can be turned into products such as soap and hand sanitiser as well as helping to heal wounds and treat superbugs such as MRSA.

Dr James Hedrick, Advanced Organic Materials Scientist at IBM Research, said: “The number of bacteria in the palm of a hand outnumbers the entire human population. With this discovery we’ve been able to leverage decades of materials development traditionally used for semiconductor technologies to create an entirely new delivery mechanism that could drugs them more specific and effective.”

“Using our novel nanostructures, we can offer a viable therapeutic solution for the treatment of MRSA and other infectious diseases,” added Dr Yiyan Yang, Group Leader at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Singapore, who also worked on the project.

“This exciting discovery effectively integrates our capabilities in biomedical sciences and materials research to address key issues in conventional drug delivery.”

According to a paper in the new edition of the journal Nature Chemistry, the nanoparticles are physically attracted to infected cells like a magnet, which means they can eradicate bacteria without destroying healthy cells. They also act in a different way to traditional antibiotics as they have been designed by the researchers to break through the membranes and walls in bacterial cells, which is hope will prevent the bacteria developing resistance to drugs. (Daily Telegraph, 4.04.2011, Martin Beckford)

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