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Brief Published: 25 Apr 2013



A new breakthrough in medical nanotechnology could help patients fight off a range of antibiotic-resistant infections. Engineers at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering in California have developed “nanosponges” – microscopic polymer spheres – that can remove toxins from blood that has been infected with snake venom, E. coli and strains of Staphylococcus bacteria. 

The nanosponges are coated with a red blood cell membrane – a disguise that attracts toxins, which it absorbs and then destroys. The polymer “sponge” that absorbs the toxins is biocompatible. It can be processed by the liver without causing damage.

“This is a new way to remove toxins from the bloodstream,” Liangfang Zhang, the senior author on the study, said in a statement. “Instead of creating specific treatments for individual toxins, we are developing a platform that can neutralise toxins caused by a wide range of pathogens, including MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

For more on the development of nanotechnology and its uses across a range of industries, see Nano Health Technology and Nano Supermarket.

UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering