Researchers Demonstrate Cargo-Carrying Bacteria to Deliver Nano-Medicine

At the American Chemical Society’s 243rd National Meeting & Exposition a research team led by David H. Gracias from the Johns Hopkins University has reported about a research on ‘backpacking’ bacteria that can serve as a carrier to deliver nano-medicine across the body.

Bacterial cells could deliver diagnostics, therapeutics or sensors to where they are needed most in the body. (Credit: Sean Parsons, ACS)

Gracias believes that cargo-carrying bacteria may clear the obstacles in utilizing nano-medicine to avert, diagnose and treat infections. At present, it is difficult to design nanoparticles or microparticles with self-propulsion systems so that they can move in accurate trajectories under biologically related conditions. However, bacteria can perform this function easily as they have self-propulsion systems. The research team has demonstrated the cargo-carrying ability of bacteria.

Moreover, bacteria are capable of responding to particular biochemical signals in various ways, thus enabling them to travel to designated parts of the body. Once reaching the designated part, they can deliver their payload and grow naturally. The backpacking bacteria come under the category of harmless bacteria that live in the intestinal tract.

The backpacks of the research team's bacteria include nano- or micro-sized devices or molecules that have useful medicinal, electrical, magnetic and optical properties. In the study, the team has tested payloads that vary in material, shape and size, which include nanowires, beads, and nanostructures fabricated using lithography. This research aims at loading one cargo piece onto a single bacterium instead of on several bacteria to carry larger payload. Although packed with cargo, these bacteria called as ‘biohybrid devices,’ are able to move freely.

Gracias stated that the team’s next steps will be to assess the possibility of diagnosing and treating infections in lab studies using the biohybrid devices. If the results turn out to be positive, then the team will perform tests on lab mice.


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