Nanoengineers at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering have invented incredibly tiny sponges capable of soaking up a broad class of dangerous toxins in the bloodstream. So-called “pore-forming toxins” punch holes in cell membranes, killing them, and are produced by lethal microbes like MRSA and E. coli and in the venoms of snakes and bees.
Unlike other anti-toxin platforms that require customization to individual toxin types, the scientists say the new nanosponges (approximately 85 nanometers in diameter or roughly 3,000 times smaller than a red blood cell) absorb multiple toxins regardless of molecular shape. In a study using alpha-haemolysin toxin from MRSA, pre-innoculation with nanosponges enabled 89 percent of tested mice to survive lethal doses. Administering nanosponges after the lethal dose led to 44 percent survival.
Read the full news release here.
A pretty amazing (and completely new!) way of removing toxins from the blood stream: The nanosponges, which are 3000 times smaller than red blood cells, flood the blood stream and intercept the toxins. The nanosponge can absorb tens to hundreds of toxins before it is eventually metabolized by the liver (with no ill effects).