Researchers found a way to change the appearance of a nanoparticle into a red blood cell to fight bacterial infection. The nanoparticle is covered in a red blood cell membrane. Also, the nanoparticles can be used to fight against antibiotic-resistant and neutralize the toxicity of venom. These “nanosponges” attack and kill the pore-forming toxins by poking holes in them. Pore-forming toxin is a common class of protein toxin in nature. Many types of bacteria release this toxin including Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA. MRSA are antibiotic-resistant strains that cause more than ten thousand deaths annually. Animal venom is also known to secrete pore-forming toxins. Each therapy has to be customized to attack the molecular structure of toxins and immobilize their cell-killing functions. Even if there is over 80 families of harmful proteins, nanosponge therapy can “neutralize every single one, regardless of their molecular structure.” One red blood cell can supply enough membrane material to produce over 3,000 nanosponges each with a diameter of 85 nanometers. The nanosponges are decoys in the bloodstream because pore-forming toxins primarily attack red blood cells. Since the size of nanosponges is small, there will be more nanosponges than red blood cells which mean a higher probability of toxins attacking a nanosponge. In animal tests, the new therapy shows increase of survival rate of mice and liver biopsies reveal no damage.
Nanosponge therapy has great potential in the future. One of best functions of nanosponges is it can target antibiotic-resistant strains. Antibiotic-resistant strains are endemic worldwide. No doubt more lives will be saved from nanosponge therapy but problems arise such as the price and availability to patients.