IBM has long been known for its innovations in computer technology. Could the IBM labs in San Jose be expanding into medicine as well? The most recent innovations seem to indicate they are.
IBM is tackling MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a form of the Staphylococcus bacterium that has developed a resistance to antibiotics such as penicillin and the cephalosporins. As a result, the infections are particularly difficult to treat. Vulnerable populations include the elderly, children, people with compromised immune systems, and people living in close quarters, such as college dormitories. It is especially prevalent in hospitals, where at risk patients are in close proximity to potentially dangerous infections. Some 19,000 people are estimated to die of MRSA infections every year.
IBM is using nanotechnology to combat the infection. The company has created nano-particles with an electromagnetic quality that allows it to identify cells resistant to antibiotics. These particles latch on to the cells and attack them, effectively punching a hole in their cell walls and letting their insides spill out. The cells die, without affecting any of the neighboring healthy cells. These nano-particles are so powerful and effective that scientists have taken to calling them “ninja particles.”
The work, being done in conjunction with the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore, offers new possibilities for combating MRSA infections. They are now in talks with the major pharmaceutical companies to see who will pick up on their innovation.