Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cool Technology Out of IBM

On the flight home from sunny, warm Las Vegas (not to mention lucrative Las Vegas!!!), the CEO of another company sat next to me.  Wall Street Journal in hand, we started talking about the latest out of IBM biotech.

He asked my thoughts on blasting the cell walls of bacteria with nanotechnology, and longer term usage.

First, it appears the technology targets gram-positive bacteria - easier membranes to pierce and destroy than gram-negative bacteria.  The gram-positives include MRSA which is often fatal in hospital patients. Nice to have this technology to help patients - put the nano particles in a skin cream, which then bonds with water to create a different polypeptide chain, and wallah!  Insta-cure... or at least, that is the thought.  Amazing!  In conjunction with other antibioitics it would appear that the microbes die and are unable to replicate or produce new strains which are medicinally resistant.

Second, once the nanotech has done its job, it is biodegradable so it leaves the body.  No residue left over, no residuals to build in the kidneys, liver, or other organs.  Pretty fascinating thought process on this. 

So, my thoughts:

Why stop at bacteria?  What not take this development two steps further into cancer cells?  What about viral nanotech?

And finally, the technology while very interesting from a scientific perspective, it is also a little scary.

What about those evil-doers who would take this technology, morph it into some sort of bio-terrorism, and put into hand creams.

How does a global political environment manage the pre-emptive strike against that? 

Guess that is where ethics comes into the discussions.  And quite frankly, given my naivety, that is my only concern.

Cool.  Scary.

Link to article in Scientific American:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=nanotech-drug-resistant-bacteria&WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20110405

1 comment:

Christine said...

Cool.Scary. Totally agree with you. Amazing possibilities...but what are the untended consequences? We don't know what we don't know.