According tomedia reports, bacteria’s resistance to the best drugs is developing rapidly, threatening to make the most common infections deadly again. Now, researchers at Rice University have developed a new way to kill these emerging superbugs, using molecular “drill bits” to pierce their cell walls. The same technique has been shown to be effective for cancer cells.
Chemicals such as drugs may be effective over time, but eventually individual bacteria randomly mutate a defense method. These lucky few bacteria will be the only ones that are resistant to antibiotic attacks, meaning they will multiply beneficial mutations and spread them to future generations. Some of these defense mechanisms include building stronger cell walls that the drug cannot penetrate.
But while bacteria may outperform chemical attacks, they do not help defend themselves against physical attacks. This is similar to how the human immune system fights a deadly flu virus infection, but it does not stop bullets. That’s the idea behind the latest research at Rice University’s James Tur Lab.
The team has developed a paddle-like motorized molecule that can look for target cells and attach themselves to the surface. Once activated by light, they rotate up to three million times per second and drill into the cell wall. If that doesn’t kill the bacteria completely, it provides a way for antibiotics to get in and work.
The researchers demonstrated the effectiveness of the technique for Klebella, a bacterium that causes pneumonia or urinary tract infections. By adding a small amount of molecular “drill” to the colony, the team was able to kill up to 17% of the bacteria. When used with meropinan antibiotics, 65% of the bacteria were killed. With more adjustments, this figure eventually rose to a staggering 94%. Interestingly, these bacteria have developed resistance to individual meloperanen, suggesting that the technique could help re-use existing antibiotics that are no longer effective.
James Tour, lead researcher on the study, said: “Now we can get drugs through cell walls. By combining with molecular ‘drill bits’, new life can be brought to ineffective antibiotics. “
Because the technology relies on light as a trigger, researchers say it will be most useful in treating infections in skin, wounds, surrounding implants or areas of the internal area that are easily accessible in its current form.
“On the skin, in the lungs or in the gastrointestinal tract, we can attack these bacteria as long as we can introduce a light source,” Tour said. “Or a person can get blood to flow through an external box with a lamp and then back into the body to kill the bacteria that are transmitted through the blood.” “
However, the technique is not only suitable for bacteria – as the team demonstrated in 2017, these molecular “drill bits” can also be trained on cancer cells. In another new study, researchers at Rice University tested them on pancreatic cancer cells, with encouraging results. Earlier studies activated them with ultraviolet light, while new studies used visible light to cause less damage to healthy cells.
The study of the bacteria was published in the journal ACS Nano, while the paper on cancer cells was published in the journal ACS Applied Materials Interfaces.