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IBM PET project tackles human fungal infections

By: PRW

December 9, 2013

Researchers from IBM and Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) have converted PET into a non-toxic and biocompatible drug delivery system designed to attack fungal infections.

The new antifungal agents self-assemble in the bloodstream through a hydrogen-bonding process to form nanofibers, which attach to fungal membranes using electrostatic attraction, according to a peer-reviewed paper published by Nature Comm. These then break through the membrane wall of the fungal cell, destroying its infective content.

According to Dr. Yi Yan Yang, the group leader at IBN, said: “The ability of these molecules to self-assemble into nanofibers is important because unlike discrete molecules, fibers increase the local concentration of cationic charges and compound mass. This facilitates the targeting of the fungal membrane and its subsequent lysis, enabling the fungi to be destroyed at low concentrations.”

Over a billion people are affected by fungal infections every year, ranging in severity from topical skin conditions like athlete’s foot to life-threatening fungal blood infections, claimed the research team. The infection is more likely to occur when the body’s immune system is compromised due to an illness such as HIV, cancer or when receiving antibiotic treatment.