Researchers from IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology have made a nanomedicine breakthrough in which they converted common plastic materials like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) into non-toxic and biocompatible materials designed to specifically target and attack fungal infections.
According to research published December 9, 2013 in the peer-reviewed journal, Nature Communications, these new antifungal agents self-assemble through a hydrogen-bonding process, sticking to each other like molecular Velcro in a polymer-like fashion to form nanofibers. This is important because these antifungal agents are only active as a therapeutic in the fiber or polymer-like form.
This novel nanofiber carries a positive charge and can selectively target and attach to only the negatively-charged fungal membranes based on electrostatic interaction. It then breaks through and destroys the fungal cell membrane walls, preventing it from developing resistance.
“As computational predictive methodologies continue to advance, we can begin to establish ground rules for self assembly to design complex therapeutics to fight infections as well as the effective encapsulation, transport and delivery of a wide variety of cargos to their targeted diseased sites,” said Dr. James Hedrick, Advanced Organic Materials Scientist, IBM Research – Almaden, speaking in a December 9, 2013 statement.
Over a billion people are affected by fungal infections every year, ranging in severity from topical skin conditions like athlete's foot to life-threatening fungal blood infections. The infection is more likely to occur when the body's immune system is compromised due to an illness like HIV/AIDS, cancer or when receiving antibiotic treatment.
Watch how IBM Research 'ninja polymers' will change how we fight drug-resistant superbugs: WATCH HERE