IBM researchers and the Singapore-based Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) have developed a nanomedicine by converting common plastic materials including polyethylene terephthalate (PET) into non-toxic and biocompatible materials.
The nanomedicine has been designed for the treatment of fungal infections that occur after contracting HIV/AIDS or cancer, or when undergoing antibiotic treatment. It will provide a new use for the nearly 5.5 billion pounds of PET bottles and jars that are available for recycling annually.
IBN executive director Jackie Ying said: "Our latest breakthrough with IBM allows us to specifically target and eradicate drug-resistant and drug-sensitive fungi strains and fungal biofilms, without harming surrounding healthy cells."
IBM researchers have implemented an organic catalytic process to ease the conversion of PET into entirely new molecules that can be further converted into antifungal agents.
This is significant, as bottles are typically recycled by mechanical grounding and can be reused only in secondary products such as clothes, carpeting or playground equipment.
IBN group leader Yi Yan Yang said the self-assemble ability of antifungal agents to form nanofibres is important because unlike discrete molecules, fibres increase the local concentration of cationic charges and compound mass.
"This facilitates the targeting of the fungal membrane and its subsequent lysis, enabling the fungi to be destroyed at low concentrations," added Yang.
Nanofibres eliminated over 99.9% of bacteria responsible for causing the most common blood stream infection in the US after a single hour of incubation. They indicated no resistance after 11 treatments.
Image: The development will open new applications for the nearly 5.5 billion pounds of PET bottles and jars available for recycling per year. Photo: courtesy of foto76 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.