August 24, 2017
Hongjun Liang of Texas Tech University thought that bacteriophages might offer some strategies that could make antimicrobial peptides more selective. These viruses with hairy surfaces target specific bacteria and penetrate the cells to infect them. "We were curious what role the phage nanostructures play," Liang says.
The researchers made three different fuzzy polymer nanoparticles that mimic bacteriophages: an 8-nm-wide sphere, and two 7-nm-wide rod-shaped particles that were 18 nm and 70 nm long, respectively. They built particles containing a polymer core with hundreds of bristles composed of positively charged, hydrophilic poly(4-vinyl-N-methylpyridinium iodide) sticking out. By using only hydrophilic bristles, the team hoped to avoid the antimicrobial peptides' toxicity to mammalian cells.