Nanorobots Quickly and Effectively Target Fungal Infections in the Oral Cavity

Nanorobots Quickly and Effectively Target Fungal Infections in the Oral Cavity

Because of the threat to global health, the World Health Organization has initiated efforts to strengthen the global response to fungal infections and antifungal resistance. It is important to improve anti-fungal efficacy at the site of infection. Current nanomaterials have demonstrated potential as anti-fungal agents, but lack the necessary efficacy and specificity, leading to longer treatment times, potential unexpected effects and drug resistance. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have now developed a new way to eradicate oral fungal infections rapidly and precisely using magnetically controlled nanorobots.

The microrobotic system they used is the result of an ongoing collaboration between the university’s dental school and School of Engineering and Applied Science. The system consists of nanoparticles that can brush, floss and rinse teeth in a single step, helping to effectively eliminate biofilm from teeth. The researchers previously tested the system for endodontic applications, and the robots were able to access difficult-to-reach root canal surfaces, disrupt biofilm, retrieve samples for diagnosis and even deliver drugs.

In a university press release on the most recent application of these microrobots, co-researcher Prof. Hyun Michel Koo of the university’s Department of Orthodontics explained the rationale for the study: “Candida forms tenacious biofilm infections that are particularly hard to treat. Current anti-fungal therapies lack the potency and specificity required to quickly and effectively eliminate these pathogens.”

“The methods we use to control the nanoparticles in this study are magnetic, which allows us to direct them to the exact infection location. We use iron oxide nanoparticles, which have another important property, namely that they’re catalytic,” explained co-researcher Dr Edward Steager, a research investigator at the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

In the presence of hydrogen peroxide, these catalytic nanoparticles, known as nanozymes, generate large amounts of various oxygen-containing molecules, exerting an antimicrobial effect. The researchers discovered that the nanozymes bind strongly to fungal cells, allowing targeted elimination of the fungi. Exploiting these properties, the researchers were able to precisely eradicate fungi within 10 minutes by directing the nanozymes to the infection site.

“Our nanozyme assemblies show an incredible attraction to fungal cells, particularly when compared to human cells. This specific binding interaction paves the way for a potent and concentrated anti-fungal effect without affecting other uninfected areas,” said Dr Steager.

The research team believes that their nanozyme-based robots hold great potential for the future. Prof. Koo commented: “We’ve uncovered a powerful tool in the fight against pathogenic fungal infections. What we have achieved here is a significant leap forward, but it’s also just the first step. The magnetic and catalytic properties combined with unexpected binding specificity to fungi open exciting opportunities for an automated ‘target-bind-and-kill’ anti-fungal mechanism. We are eager to delve deeper and unlock its full potential.”

The study, titled “Nanozyme-based robotics approach for targeting fungal infection”, was published on 4 May 2023 in Advanced Materials, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

Read the original article on Dental Tribune.