Comes from recycled plastic the remedy for diseases caused by drug-resistant superbugs. Polyethylene terephthalate, the PET of common bottles of plastic for example, it can be transformed into non-toxic and biocompatible materials to identify and attack fungal infections. Let's talk about nanomedicine.
The news was published in Nature Comm and is the result of research conducted in the United States by IBM researchers and bioengineering and nanotechnology specialists. The 'ninja polymers', as the new molecules obtained from the recycled plastic, will change the way we fight disease caused by drug-resistant pathogens.
There recycled plastic in short, waste bottles could help many people. Every year more than a billion people are affected by fungal infections of varying severity ranging from local skin infections, such as athlete's foot, to life-threatening fungal blood contamination. Infection is more frequent when the immune system is compromised due to diseases such as HIV / AIDS, cancer or when following antibiotic therapy.
The problem bioengineers are solving with the recycled plastic is drug resistance. Traditional therapeutic products must penetrate the cell to attack the infection, but have difficulty in identifying the wall of the fungal membrane and penetrating it. Furthermore, since fungi are metabolically similar to mammalian cells, existing drugs may have difficulty distinguishing between healthy and infected cells.
IBM researchers implemented an organic catalytic process to facilitate the transformation of PET or recycled plastic of a bottle into entirely new molecules that can be transformed into antifungal agents. The process is also important because the bottles of plastic they are often recycled by mechanical grinding and, in most cases, can only be reused in secondary products such as fabrics, carpets or for flooring sports fields.
How do ninja polymers work? Antifungal agents originating from the recycled plastic they self-assemble through a hydrogen bond and stick to each other to form the nanofibers as a sort of molecular velcro, similar to polymers. This is important because antifungal agents are active as therapeutic products only in the form of fibers or polymers.
The nanofiber of recycled plastic carries a positive charge and is capable of attacking only negatively charged fungal membranes, based on an electrostatic interaction. The nanofiber breaks through and destroys the membrane walls of the fungal cell, preventing it from developing resistance. Further findings from this research also highlighted that nanofibers efficiently dispersed fungal biofilms after just one treatment while conventional drugs were not effective against biofilms.
IBM's computational capabilities have been instrumental in allowing researchers to simulate antifungal assemblies and predict structural changes that can create the desired therapeutic efficacy. IBM's nanomedicine program that led to this use of recycled plastic started at IBM's research labs in 2009 and stems from decades of developing materials commonly used for semiconductor technologies.