IBM team using nano-particles to fight superbugs

SAN JOSE, Calif.

An IMB research team in San Jose is developing a new weapon in the fight against superbugs such as MRSA. MRSA is a drug-resistant bacterium which kills an estimated 19,000 Americans every year.

The big breakthrough is 50,000 times smaller than the thickness of human hair.

"This happens to be a new class of antimicrobials that are designed to fight pathogens and infectious disease," IBM scientist Jim Hedrick PhD said.

The researchers working with the nano-particles jokingly refer to them as ninja particles because their attack is fast, effective and precious.

The particles have an electromagnetic quality, searching out the cell walls of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

"Go in, latch on, take your little nano scissors out or nano throwing stars out and punch a hole through and let the guts spill out," IBM chemistry department manager Bob Allen PhD said.

Lab tests indicate the nano-particles destroy MRSA without affecting healthy or red blood cells.

IBM has partnered with scientists at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore. The hope is that a name known for computer technology can find its niche in modern medicine.

"It's an exciting new area for us and allows us to basically leverage the things we have been doing over the last 20 years or so at IBM and the new chemistry and synthetic methods we've developed," Hedrick said.

Researchers say they are now talking with pharmaceutical companies. The next goal is to take their science from the lab to human testing.

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