Mark Schoenfisch and his lab of analytical chemists at UNC have created nano-scale scaffolds made of silica and loaded with nitric oxide (NO) which can be released in a precisely controlled way. Nitric Oxide can be used to kill bacteria.
Schoenfisch, Hetrick and their colleagues tested their silica scaffolds head-to-head with small molecules against the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is commonly found in burn and other wound infections.
NO delivered by both methods completely killed the bacteria. But the silica nanoparticles delivered the NO right to the bacteria’s doorstep. In contrast, the small molecules released NO indiscriminately, and the concentration of NO is lost as it makes its way toward bacterial cells.
“With the silica particles, more NO actually reached the inside of the cells, enhancing the efficacy of the nanoparticles compared to the small molecule. So, the overall amount of NO needed to kill bacteria is much less with silica nanoparticles,” Schoenfisch said. “And, with small molecules, you’re left with potentially toxic byproducts,” Schoenfisch said. Using mouse cells, they proved that the silica nanoparticles weren’t toxic to healthy cells, but the small molecules were.
Future research will include studying additional bacterial strains, active targeting, preferential uptake and biodistribution studies.