Active ingredients in the ’protective suit’ in the fight against bacteria

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The use of nanotechnology offers numerous new possibilities in the development of medicines and the targeted release of active ingredients. One interesting innovation is the use of iron oxide nanoparticles with a special coating. This allows active ingredients to be delivered safely and directly to the affected cells. An international team of scientists with prominent participation from the Medical University of Graz recently published its research results on this topic, drawing attention to potential areas of application in the treatment of infections or in cancer therapy.

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are natural substances that attack bacteria by destroying their cell membranes. They could therefore be used to treat bacterial infections, for example, as they have the advantage over conventional antibiotics that they reduce the development of antibiotic resistance. However, Sebastian Schwaminger from the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the Medical University of Graz describes the reason why AMPs cannot be used without further ado: "Some AMPs can be dangerous not only for bacterial cells, but also for human cells, which currently limits their applicability."

An international team of scientists from the Technical University of Munich, the University of Limerick (Ireland), Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands) and the Medical University of Graz has taken up this challenge and published a possible solution for how nanotechnology can enable the widespread use of AMPs. In particular, the AMP lasioglosin III (LL) was used here, as it has an extremely antimicrobial effect.

Magnetic remote control brings active ingredient directly to the site of application

The iron oxide nanoparticles developed by the scientists are coated with a supramolecular ureido-pyrimidinone coating, which increases the antimicrobial activity of the peptide. In the supramolecular coating, large molecules interlock like in a parquet floor and thus stabilize each other. But that’s not all, as Sebastian Schwaminger explains: ,,The nanoparticles we have described can be controlled by the iron oxide using magnetism, which means that the drug release takes place exactly where it is needed." This innovation is associated with a number of benefits for patients:

  • Reduction in the dosage of AMPs, thereby reducing the risk of side effects
  • Targeted drug delivery at the site of infection or disease
  • Improved safety by combining nanoparticles with AMPs, thereby reducing toxicity to human cells

Tests in the laboratory model to examine possible applications

Our research results could revolutionize the way we treat diseases in the foreseeable future," says Sebastian Schwaminger, looking to the future. It has been shown that the particles are effective against both cancer cells and microorganisms (bacteria). The next step in the development of these innovative materials is to test them in laboratory models before they can be used for therapeutic purposes.


Iron Oxide Nanoparticles with Supramolecular Ureido-Pyrimidinone Coating for Antimicrobial Peptide Delivery­4/19/14649