Nanotechnology is leading to innovation in drug delivery, and new ways to treat diseases.

In an April 3, 2011 online article in Nature Chemistry, researchers from the IBM Almaden Research Center, Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore and Zhejiang University in China publish groundbreaking data on how biodegradable nanoparticles could be used to treat infectious diseases such as methillicin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The research shows how nanoparticles can selectively disrupt microbial cell membranes, walls and inhibit the growth of gram-positive bacteria, MRSA and fungi.

What makes this research exciting, is that the nanoparticles did not cause haemolysis or break-up of red blood cells.  The authors note that nanoparticles for the treatment of infectious diseases could be “synthesized in large quantities and at low cost” and are therefore “promising as anti-microbial drugs.”

The global market for infectious diseases was $90.4 billion in 2009 and is projected to reach $138 billion in 2014.  In the United States there are now more deaths from MRSA than there are from AIDS (18,650 MRSA deaths in 2005 compared to 16,000 for AIDS according to a paper in JAMA).

With more than 94,000 MRSA infections a year in the United States, and the increasing resistance of MRSA to existing anti-microbial therapies, treatment of infectious diseases is a major public health concern. Hospital acquired MRSA infections particularly target the elderly and those vulnerable through weakened immune systems.

Innovations in nanotechnology and drug delivery, such as the one published by Nederberg, Zhang, Tan & Xu in Nature Chemistry, open the door to potential new anti-microbial therapies.  It will be interesting to see how this research is commercialized and translated into new products and treatments.

ResearchBlogging.orgNederberg, F., Zhang, Y., Tan, J., Xu, K., Wang, H., Yang, C., Gao, S., Guo, X., Fukushima, K., Li, L., Hedrick, J., & Yang, Y. (2011). Biodegradable nanostructures with selective lysis of microbial membranes Nature Chemistry DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1012

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