Nanotechnology is one of the smallest worlds in this universe that represents one millionth of a millimeter. Hence, the nano world is often described as an area where “invisible technology” is produced.
It is known as nanotechnology to the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension of the size between 1 to 100 nanometers. It sounds very technical but it is a curious world. It interesting is that when the elements are reduced to these scales they present some new properties that allow developing solutions to solve problems related to the environment, electronics, energy production and medicine. In this article the focus is on the latter.
Keep in mind that the sizes in which elements are manipulated in nanotechnology are literally invisible to the human eye.
A nanodisinfectant to combat bacteria, viruses and fungi
Argentine researchers developed a spray that uses antimicrobial nanomaterials to apply on different types of surfaces, with the aim of keeping them free of bacteria, viruses and fungi for a long time. The effectiveness against some of these microorganisms is greater than 99.9%.
The product, called Hybridon, was developed within the framework of a consortium formed by the Institute of Nanosystems of the National University of San Martín (UNSAM), the company Adox SA and the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet), with the collaboration of the National Atomic Energy Commission and the University of Buenos Aires (UBA).
“The product has a dual action: It acts on the one hand when it comes into contact with the surface, but then, due to its residual effect, it remains active for long periods of time, which means that the treated surface is protected against contamination that can occur from one cleaning and disinfection event to the next”, he stated for TechMarkupMara Alderete, graduate in biotechnology and coordinator of the Technological Projects and Linkage Area at the UNSAM Nanosystems Institute.
This residual aspect of the antimicrobial effect is the differential which gives it an advantage over other disinfectants, which generally do not protect against contamination events that occur after disinfection.
The product was tested against the following bacteria: Escherichia coli, Staphyllococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Salmonella cholerasius. The effectiveness on fungi was tested on Aspergillus brasiliensis and Candida albicans. It was also validated against the canine Coronavirus virus.
It should be noted that the National Administration of Medicines, Food and Medical Technology (ANMAT) approved it as the first coating against microbes made from nanotechnology in Argentina. Now the product is in the process of commercialization. The current use is directed mainly to health institutions.
The product contains nanostructured particles adsorbed with silver and copper ions. ”The nanostructures function as carriers where antimicrobial ions are supported. These ions, which are the ones that ultimately exert the antimicrobial effect, are gradually released through a process of equilibrium”, details Alderete.
The use of nanotechnology to combat microorganisms has also been used in developments based on textiles. This is the case of the project prepared in 2020 by Argentine scientists Verónica Lasalle and Vera Álvarez.
In line with that research, The work of the Universidad Privada del Norte, in Peru, whose main researcher is Dr. David Asmat Campos, can also be highlighted.
Within the framework of this initiative, the textiles were treated with nanoparticles of silver, copper and zinc oxide. In addition, they were tested against different microorganisms and showed different percentages of effectiveness.
The textiles achieved 99.97% inhibition of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in bacteria such as E. coli and S. aureus, 100%, and in the fungus such as A. brasiliensis, 52.38%, explained from the University to TechMarkup.
For this initiative, which is still in the patent process before the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property (Indecopi) in Peru, work was carried out in collaboration with the National Nanotechnology Laboratory of Costa Rica, and Incabiotec company from Peru
A hydrogel barrier prevents post-surgery healing problems
More than 90% of surgical patients develop postoperative adhesions and the incidence of hospital readmissions can reach 20%. Adhesions are bands of tissue similar to scar tissue that form between two surfaces within the body and make them stick together.
This can cause different problems such as difficulties for the organ to move or function normally and, in the event that they form in the abdominal area, for example, they could cause an obstruction abdomen with serious consequences. And in the case of the heart, it could lead to movement restrictions with difficulties in beating and even the development of inflammation.
Nanotechnology can play a key role in resolving these drawbacks. Guillermo Ulises Ruiz-Esparza is a Mexican doctor, scientist and entrepreneur, graduated from Tec de Monterrey, and currently develops medical technologies related to this discipline, at the School of Medicine of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In dialogue with TechMarkup He explained the details of some of the initiatives he is working on together with other fellow researchers.
“We have a line of research that is nanotechnology liquidin which we develop materials that can change shape (from solid to liquid and vice versa) and we use it in the heart because we can form a kind of cardiac lining to prevent adhesions from being generated,” Ruiz-Esparza explained.
The product is a self-healing drug delivery hydrogel barrier composed of silicate nanodiscs and polyethylene glycolwhich has the ability to coat the epicardial surface of the heart without friction and locally deliver dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory drug.
The idea is that the surgeon, before closing the heart as part of surgery, injects the hydrogel into the pericardial cavity of the heart.
Currently, to prevent adhesions, a product is used that is only 25% effective in abdominal interventions. And for the heart there is not even a solution. Hence, the researchers have thought of producing a tool based on nanotechnology to solve this problem.
“The lining forms like a barrier that does not allow cells that produce collagen, which is what forms adhesions, to stick to the surface of the heart. In this way it prevents the formation of adhesion and as a bonus we add an aanti-inflammatory people, which is dexamethasone, which is going to help lower the inflammatory response that also causes adhesions to form. Sos technology has two mechanisms: the barrier against the hydrogel and then releases an anti-inflammatory drug”, summarizes the researcher.
This initiative began to be developed in 2016, the first conclusions were published in 2020 and it has already been tested in mice and rabbits. The idea is to test its efficacy in larger animals such as pigs soon; and only in three years could it be tested in humans.
Nanobiosensors for therapeutic monitoring of antibiotics
Nanosensors are devices that allow the evaluation of molecular interactions in real time. These devices are made up of a biological component that can be an enzyme or DNA and a physical component that is a system that allows the measurement made to be translated so that it can be visible to the user, for example, through a screen.
Rosa Helena Bustos Cruz, professor at the Faculty of Medicine and director of the Therapeutic Evidence Research Group at the University of La Sabana, spoke with TechMarkup about the new advances that it is leading in this segment.
“Now we are designing a nanobiosensor that is for therapeutic monitoring of antibiotics. This development is made with optical-type nanobiosensors. It is based on the fact that a beam of light passes through a polarizing prism and excites the electrons on a sensing surface made of gold. What happens at the molecular level on the sensing surface (chip) will indicate a change in reflectance which will be shown by the team and will be expressed in arbitrary units such as resonance units (RU)”, highlights the expert. This project is already finished and it is expected that next year it will be in use.
There are different types of sensors: electrochemical, nanomechanical, piezoelectric and optical, which are what Bustos Cruz is using together with his research team. “This type of technology allows for much more sensitive measurements and for research they are very robust.. They are what are most used for determination of immunogenicity in biological drugs and evaluation of proteins, he remarks.
This device can be useful, for example, in the care of patients in intensive care units. There, doctors can use this technology to know precisely if the medication is being safe and effective in treating an infection.
Lastly, he mentions that, along with his team have been developing nanobiosensors a few years ago to evaluate regeneration processes in tissue engineering. “The subject of biosensors is very versatile, with results in real time, portable, with high sensitivity and specificity”, he concludes.