Nanosponges may remove toxins from the bloodstream

April 15, 2013 at 4:29 PM
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SAN DIEGO, April 15 (UPI) -- U.S. engineers say they've develop a "nanosponge" that can remove a number of toxins -- including E. coli and bee or snake venom -- from the human bloodstream.

Researchers at the University of California say the nanosponges, which have been used in studies with mice, can neutralize "pore-forming toxins" which destroy cells by poking holes in their cell membranes.

One advantage of the nanosponges is they can absorb different pore-forming toxins regardless of their molecular structures, a university release reported Sunday.

"This is a new way to remove toxins from the bloodstream," nanoengineering professor Liangfang Zhang said. "Instead of creating specific treatments for individual toxins, we are developing a platform that can neutralize toxins caused by a wide range of pathogens, including MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

In order to evade the immune system and remain in circulation in the bloodstream, the nanosponges are contained in red blood cell membranes.

Since red blood cells are one of the primary targets of pore-forming toxins, the wrapped nanosponges serve as red blood cell decoys that collect the toxins, the researchers said.

The experiments are intended to lead to approved therapies, they said, and the next step would be clinical trials.

"One of the first applications we are aiming for would be an anti-virulence treatment for MRSA," post-doctoral researcher "Jack" Che-Ming Hu said.

"That's why we studied one of the most virulent toxins from MRSA in our experiments."

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