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Anti-microbial hydrogel offers new weapon against drug-resistant bacteria

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January 30, 2013

Only a few bacteria are left over, after the hydrogel was used to destroy a solid bacteria...

Only a few bacteria are left over, after the hydrogel was used to destroy a solid bacterial biofilm

Whether it’s in hospitals, restaurant kitchens or our homes, harmful bacteria such as E.coli are a constant concern. Making matters worse is the fact that such bacteria are increasingly developing a resistance to antibiotics. This has led to a number of research projects, which have utilized things such as blue light, cold plasma and ozone to kill germs. One of the latest non-antibiotic bacteria-slayers is a hydrogel developed by IBM Research and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore.

The hydrogel consists of water (over 90 percent of its composition), along with special polymers. When heated to body temperature, these polymers’ molecules link together like the teeth of a zipper, forming chains that give the substance its malleable, gelatinous consistency.

The gel is non-toxic, water-soluble, biodegradable, and maintains a positive charge. That last point is particularly important, as the outer membranes of bacteria carry a negative charge. As a result, when the hydrogel is applied to an antibiotic-resistant bacterial biofilm, the bacteria are drawn to the gel, which then kills them by rupturing their membranes.

Because it’s a physical attack, the bacteria are unable to develop a resistance to the hydrogel. Additionally, the gel doesn’t harm healthy body cells, and sticks around on surfaces longer than fast-evaporating ethanol-based solutions such as hand gels.

It is hoped that once fully developed and approved, the hydrogel could be used in applications such as wound-healing creams and injections, or implant and catheter coatings. More information is available in the video below.

A coating that utilizes the same principles is currently under development at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Source: IBM Research via PopSci

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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9 Comments

Yep. "Only a few are left over." And there is the long term end of the efficacy of the hydrogel. This game has been going on for what seems like eons with Big Pharma being the long term winner. No matter what they come up with, the bacteria/viruses alter themselves and move forward to new, ever stronger versions. And their growing strength is much faster than the ability of the human's immune systems to adapt. We never seem to learn this. There's ALWAYS another drug, another "hydrogel" which the little critters soon evade, avoid and reemerge ever more powerful.

TheRogue1000
31st January, 2013 @ 08:20 am PST

Granted, I know nothing about *why* bacteria have negatively charged outer membranes, but wouldn't a defense against this type of attack simply be for a bacterium to evolve a neutral or positively charged membrane? Again, I have no idea if that's even possible.

Stradric
31st January, 2013 @ 10:20 am PST

TheRogue1000, those few that are left over are much easier for the immune system to take care of than the cluster of millions that would make up a biofilm. This is a great development.

Onihikage
31st January, 2013 @ 11:23 am PST

Rogue, couldn't agree with you more. This video was just a PR stunt. No substantive demonstration given of mechanism in either video or this article. But so long as there are big names and "nanotechnology" somewhere in the title, with white clad "scientists" wearing latex gloves, wow, it must be high-tech science and the brave new world.

anti-biotic resistent staph infections have become almost critical in hospitals, where they breed, and drug companies have all but given up on antibiotics now as they don't work anymore on staph infections...this latest foray is a sign of desperation with a pleasant PR spin on it. This article makes it sound as if plasma and ozone are recent developments. Before big pharma stumbled onto antiobiotics back in the 30's or so, which they patented and pushed through, to the exclusion of everything else even when it worked!, there was incredible success being had with silver treatments, plasma and U.V. treatments. Ancients used silver vessels to keep liquids better for longer, and farmers one or two hundred years ago still new to put silver coins in their milk jugs to keep milk longer. They used silver salves with great success in med-kits in WWI. Today we have silver coated bandages for burn patients, and we have a silver coated memory foam mattress liner, but for some reason they don't use silver to treat bacterial infections, and we can make coloidal silver better now than ever. Hmnn.

U.V. blood treatments also had phenomenal success before the 30s. We use UV light in water filtration systems to kill germs, we use U.V. light in some air cleaners to kill bacteria, mold, etc as it blows past the light into our homes, but they can't seem to figure out to use it now in hospitals instead of antibiotics. Hmmn. Detecting a pattern here. (actually there are a few clinics that will take blood, run it as it pumps from your body, through a compact UV light system and it pumps straight back into your body...and it works wonders. But hey, that's "quackery" and has to be shut down for our safety, says the current medical establishment that happens to make billions from anti-biotics.

Follow the money. This stuff is big, big business for these companies. Big Pharma likes to hype this stuff up to develop a market for their own *patented* drugs. They cant' make money off coloidal silver or U.V. light or ozone treatment because they can't patent it. That's why they won't tell you about birch bark, but instead develop asperin or tylenol and make their billions. This is why the oil companies went on a huge smear campaign to convince you coconut oil is dangerous b/c it's fuly saturated, but their hydrogated automobile oil called Crisco is perfectly safe. (Extra Virgin, unprocessed Coconut oil is a God-given health wonder for all sorts of things...look into it.)

This is why, sorry for the hard dose of reality here, there will never be a cure for cancer with the current milti-billion dollar industry running the show. This is why thermogrphy can't be tolerated as another viable, far less invasive measure to diagnose breast cancer, or why the FDA did everything possible to shut down, steal his patents, and try to lock up in jail a Dr. Burzynski when he develops a stunning, patented approach to cancer that works far better than the carpet bombing of multiple chemo cocktails currently offered as "cutting edge" clinical cancer treatment. Because they can't tolerate a cure as it would mean the end of their business! This is why vaccines are big, big business, even though they do far more harm than good, thousands die, get paralized or become autistic from them, and people still get flue and infleunza from these supposed "pandemics" they hype, even after they've been vacinated multiple times, because they contain aluminum, mercury, fermeldahyde, MSG, genetically modified albinum, and protein products from aborted babies. Sick! It's all just big business to them, and your well being be damned. People, follow the money trail, not slick PR claims from ads or doctors who are given financial kick-backs to administer more drugs and vaccines.

Same reason GMO's are huge business, & the world is filling up with Genetically modified plants, with it's full glyphosate and chemical spray regimes which hurt everyone and every ecosystem, but all the Ag experts and current agronomists swear it's perfectly safe as our land is farmed and chemicalized into oblivion, our food quality and general health tanks and waterways fill with phosphates, nitrogen and algal blooms & dead zones, and why they now want to mess with GMO animals and crops that even change the RNA in your own body when you eat it!! But hey, they got billions to lobby and influence policy makers, who they buy out. What a corrupt world.

Can't have people getting better using a natural, totally safe product like coloidal silver that is a God-given gift, when we have this here man-made, synthesized polymer pack of hydrogel that can be sold for mucho $$. Gizmag...sometimes I wish you guys would get a little more grounded in reality, instead of this star-trek type phantasy world you seem to live in, where objective scientists can just invent a cure for everything, using drugs and nanotechnology of course. Having said that, I would actually be very impressed with you if you would actually post my comment.

Concerned.

jeddit
31st January, 2013 @ 12:38 pm PST

I'm with you jeddit, and so are millions of other people. Thanks for post.

And thank you Gizmag for being brave and telling both sides.

S Michael
31st January, 2013 @ 08:59 pm PST

For those who read jeddit and scoffed. Yeah, that's maybe a little over the top, but he/she is right about the whole "follow the money" thing. There is a lot more money to be made in treatment than there is in prevention. So... would any of you pay a health care professional on a weekly basis - say, $25 a week maybe - to keep you healthy? And, if you got sick, you stopped paying that HCP? You'd have the incentive to not get sick, of course, and the HCP would have the incentive to prevent that also. Doesn't work that way now, as you know. Research would be a whole different ballgame, I think. And, given the time factors involved in the real world (where such things are really tested), the hydrogel may be a good stop-gap at this point and may actually help people. I'd be curious to know what the absorbtion rate (or whatever) is when it's injected - how long would it float around the system and what beneficial critters living inside me might be affected.

KMH
1st February, 2013 @ 06:46 am PST

So what happens when the bacteria changes its membrane so that it's "rupture proof" to the hydragel and other mechanisms that rupture its walls... ? ? ? Bacteria and other microscopic life forms have a tenacious tendency to survive, adapt and overcome man-made obstacles.

RESISTANCE
1st February, 2013 @ 01:36 pm PST

Rogue, Stradric, Resistnce and other naysayers:

As far as I can tell, you appear to be criticizing this without knowing much about it. The negative charge on bacterial walls isn't something that can be evolved away. It's part of the basic structure of bacteria. And notice where it says in the article that resistance to the physical attack is impossible to develop.

I don't know where this "only a few are left over" is coming from. It's not in the article. As best as I can tell, it's just an assumption made by one of the critics here, like so many other "what if" scenarios proposed above based on virtually no knowledge of microbiology.

Gadgeteer
1st February, 2013 @ 04:37 pm PST

The GM crops story will be settled by which gene pool will adapt around it the best. Scientists haven't really unraveled as many DNA secrets as they think.

Vukile Mlonzi
7th February, 2013 @ 12:08 pm PST
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