Researchers develop microscopic sponge to soak up toxins in the blood

Researchers from UC San Diego have invented what's described as a microscopic sponge. The tiny sponge is design to circulate in the bloodstream and mop up toxins such as drug-resistant bacterium and even toxins such as snake venom. The researchers call the tiny sponge the nanosponge.

So far, the microscopic sponges have been tested only in mice. The researchers say that the tiny sponge works well when injected into healthy mice that were then infected with a toxin from the strain of Staphylococcus aureus that is resistant to multiple antibiotics. The researchers say that mice that had been injected with the microscopic sponges survived lethal doses of the toxin 89% of the time.

The researchers say that when the sponges were injected after the infection was introduced only about 44% of the mice survived. Researchers have been focusing on tiny sponges of this sort, approximately the size of a virus, as a way to deliver specialized drugs for treatment of certain types of cancer. The researchers are also considering the development of pore-forming toxins that could destroy cells by poking holes in them.

The sponges are hidden from the body by enveloping them in red blood cell membranes. By hiding the sponges inside of a red blood cell membrane, the sponges are able to appear to be regular red blood cells acting as decoys to attract the toxin. The sponges are processed by the liver without causing any damage to the organ.

[via LA Times]