Nanosponges Soak Up Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria and Toxins

Survival rates in mice infected with deadly bacteria dramatically increase when administered the nanosponges

2 min read
Nanosponges Soak Up Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria and Toxins
University of California, San Diego

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a nanoparticle that mimics a human blood cell so that it can circulate through our bloodstream soaking up bacterial infections and toxins. These so-called ‘nanosponges’ are expected to be particularly effective in treating bacterial infections that have developed an immunity to antibiotic treatments—and also for treating venoms from snake bites.

The nanosponges are made up of a biocompatible polymer core and covered by an outer layer of red blood cell membrane. With a diameter of 85 nanometers, the nanosponges are 3000 times smaller than a human blood cell, so in a single infusion of nanosponges into the blood stream they would easily outnumber the red blood cells, and thus intercept most of the attacking toxins before they damaged the actual blood cells.

A video containing a description of the nanoparticles, along with an animation of how the particles would circulate through our bloodstream soaking up toxins can be seen below.

“This is a new way to remove toxins from the bloodstream,” said Liangfang Zhang, a nanoengineering professor at UC San Diego and the senior author on the study, in a press release. “Instead of creating specific treatments for individual toxins, we are developing a platform that can neutralize toxins caused by a wide range of pathogens, including methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other antibiotic resistant bacteria.”

In the research, which was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology (“A biomimetic nanosponge that absorbs pore-forming toxins”), the UCSD team demonstrated how the nanosponges target pore-forming toxins (so-called because of their ability to poke holes in cells and kill them), such as MSRA. In their lab studies, the researchers found that 89 percent of mice inoculated with the nanosponges survived subsequent infections from MRSA. And those that were administered the nanosponges after being infected had a 44 percent survival rate.

Unlike other nanotechnologies that employ bio-mimicry to duplicate a natural phenomenon for use in another purpose, such as nanochannels for batteries that mimic the channels found in proteins,  this nanoparticle is more like bio-‘trickery’—a wolf in sheep's clothing. The nanoparticles are hidden within the husks of red blood cells so that the immune system is tricked into not attacking them as they circulate through the bloodstream.

This so-called red blood cell cloaking technology had been developed two years ago by Zhang and his team to deliver cancer treatments to tumor sites in the body. They have repurposed it here with the nanosponges and it appears to be a repeatable and scalable process. Some blood is drawn from the patient and then put into a centrifuge to separate out the red blood cells. The red blood cells are then placed in a solution that causes them to swell and burst leaving their outer surface, which is then mixed with the polymer nanoparticles, coating them. Not much blood is needed since one red blood cell membrane can cover thousands of these nanosponges.

The researchers seem intent on getting this therapy into clinical trials as quickly as possible.

Photo/Video: University of California, San Diego

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3 Ways 3D Chip Tech Is Upending Computing

AMD, Graphcore, and Intel show why the industry’s leading edge is going vertical

8 min read
Vertical
A stack of 3 images.  One of a chip, another is a group of chips and a single grey chip.
Intel; Graphcore; AMD
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A crop of high-performance processors is showing that the new direction for continuing Moore’s Law is all about up. Each generation of processor needs to perform better than the last, and, at its most basic, that means integrating more logic onto the silicon. But there are two problems: One is that our ability to shrink transistors and the logic and memory blocks they make up is slowing down. The other is that chips have reached their size limits. Photolithography tools can pattern only an area of about 850 square millimeters, which is about the size of a top-of-the-line Nvidia GPU.

For a few years now, developers of systems-on-chips have begun to break up their ever-larger designs into smaller chiplets and link them together inside the same package to effectively increase the silicon area, among other advantages. In CPUs, these links have mostly been so-called 2.5D, where the chiplets are set beside each other and connected using short, dense interconnects. Momentum for this type of integration will likely only grow now that most of the major manufacturers have agreed on a 2.5D chiplet-to-chiplet communications standard.

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