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Nanotubes can kill bacteria

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2008 - Spring


A study to measure the toxic effects of nanotubes on human cells has led to a possible new approach to treating antibiotic-resistant infections.

In a paper published in the August 28 issue of the American Chemical Society journal Langmuir, Yale researchers said that single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) can kill such bacteria as E. coli.

“We began the study out of concern for the possible toxicity of nanotubes in aquatic environments and their presence in the food chain,” said Menachem Elimelech, Ph.D., the Roberto C. Goizueta Professor and chair of chemical engineering. “While nanotubes have great promise for medical and commercial applications, there is little understanding of how they interact with humans and the environment.”

Elimelech speculates that the long, thin nanotubes puncture the cells and cause cellular damage. “We are looking at the effects of SWCNTs on a wide range of bacterial strains to better understand the mechanism of cellular damage,” Elimelech said.

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