Genie in a Bottle
I am truly on board with recycling. No, I have not turned
into a tree hugger yet, but recycling discarded items is an ingenious idea. The
benefits are two-fold: humans get to turn garage into reusable items and the
planet is protected for its inhabitants.
It seems that pharmaceutical companies have caught the
innovative recycling bug as well. Drug manufacturers are collaborating with
laboratorians to create medications from just about everything these days,
including living (i.e. biologics and biosimilars) and nonliving (i.e. chemical)
materials. In fact just recently it was announced that a new drug has been
designed from a recycled plastic bottle.
There are a limited number of antifungal drugs and some of
the ones available only inhibit the growth of the fungus, but do not kill the
fungi. As a result, the fungal disease only returns. Then to make matters
worst, fungi can develop a resistance to antifungal medications. Trying to
administered higher antifungal dosages only destroys the individual's blood cells
and ultimately the kidneys.
The term genie is derived from the Latin word, genius. And
the term ingenious is defined as individuals possessing inventive skill and
imagination -- and geniuses are exactly what the research scientists are the IBM
Research laboratories and Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and
Nanotechnology (IBN) are. Their joint effort has magically coaxed an ingenious
way to convert recycled plastic bottles into a new drug that can kill fungal
Fungal diseases are caused by fungi that are in the
environment. Illnesses can range from mild, such as skin diseases to very
harmful lung and bloodstream infections. It is estimated that globally, the
treatment for fungal infections cost over $6 billion to treat worldwide.
Bottle Holds Solution
As a result of the limited antibiotic-resistant remedies,
the recycled bottle solution is superb. For clarity sake, the medication is not
actually made of the bottle, but instead is made up of a compound that
self-assembles into small, short nanofibers. With the aid of an electrostatic
charge, the nanofibers target the oppositely charged cell membrane of invading
fungi. This action causes the fungal cell’s membrane to be penetrated and then
burst. The result is that the fungal cells are killed.
I am now meditating on my Styrofoam coffee cup sitting in
wastebasket. I’m embracing Lao Tzu’s quote, “To see things in the seed, that is
genius." I hope I can coax this recyclable cup to spark an idea into my head
for a new “mucho money” pharmaceutical patent.