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Science Nation - Nanosponge decoy fights ‘superbug’ infections


April 24, 2014

Published on Apr 24, 2014. Our first instinct with infection in the body is often to find it and get rid of it! But, engineer Liangfang Zhang had another idea. With support from the National Science Foundation, Zhang and his team at UC-San Diego have created a nanosponge to combat drug-resistant infections, such as those caused by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The nanosponge, made from biocompatible, biodegradable polymer nanoparticles, is camouflaged with a red blood cell membrane. It circulates in the bloodstream, absorbing the toxins produced by infection.

One red blood cell membrane can be used as a cloak for more than 3,000 of these stealthy nanosponges. Once the nanosponges are fully loaded with toxins, they are safely disposed of by the liver. They are designed to work with any type of infection or poison that attacks the cellular membrane.

Zhang is working closely with doctors and students at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center on this “nano” approach to healing infections. He has been testing his approach on mice, with nearly a 100% success rate against staph infections. Human clinical trials are the next step!


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