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The Power of Two

Genie in a Bottle

Published April 24, 2014 2:00 PM by Eleanor Wolfram

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.

Limited Remedies
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.

Ingenious Geniuses
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 infections.

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.

Green Seeds
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.  

posted by Eleanor Wolfram


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