SEP 30, 2022 1:00 PM PDT

Microbots Created with Algae Cells Deliver Antibiotics Directly to the Lungs

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Pneumonia is a common lung affliction. While a range of things can cause pneumonia, one of the most common include bacterial infections. These bacterial infections are especially common, and worrisome, in people who need a mechanical ventilator to help them breathe. 

Treating pneumonia, however, can be challenging, largely because many existing treatment approaches limit how much antibiotics can reach the lungs to treat pneumonia. For example, antibiotics delivered intravenously tend to have a lower rate of effectiveness, largely because most of the antibiotics never reach the lungs, limiting treatment efficacy. As a result, many of the sickest patients tend to have high mortality rates. 

To address this unmet need for effective, targeted treatments for bacterial pneumonia, researchers at the University of California—San Diego have developed a way that may help deliver antibiotics to their intended target: the lungs. Their work is described in a recent article published in Nature Materials

To create their new therapeutic delivery approach, researchers looked to a particular function: swimming. That’s why their new approach uses combined microbots and the cells of living algae to deliver antibiotics to the lungs. The microbots were made up of these algae cells, which are created to have polymer spheres on their surface covered in antibiotics, which allows them to destroy different kinds of molecules, creating an anti-inflammatory reaction. 

Algae cells offered an optimal way to move antibiotics through viscous liquids, such as mucus, which is often present in the lungs of someone with pneumonia. When researchers tested the microbots on mice with bacterial pneumonia, researchers found that all mice treated with the algae microbots survived up to 30 days, compared to untreated mice who lived only three. All mice had pneumonia caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is one of the more common bacterial strains that causes pneumonia in people on ventilation. 

The research team hopes their microbots could provide new options for some of the sickest pneumonia patients with the highest risk of mortality. 

Sources: Medgadget; Nature Materials

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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