LEICESTER, UK: Research to be carried out at the University of Leicester will
develop silver nanoparticles, in a form which can play a significant role
to play in combating MRSA, Cystic Fibrosis and AIDS, as well as the treatment
It has been known for some time that silver is highly
toxic to a wide range of bacteria, and silver-based
compounds have been used extensively in bactericidal
applications. This property of silver has caused
great interest especially as new resistant strains
of bacteria have become a serious problem in public
For example MRSA bacteria kill 5,000 hospital patients
a year in the UK alone and any method of attacking
them, not involving normal antibiotics, is becoming
Silver in the form of nanoparticles is even more
effective, partly because of the high surface/volume
fraction so that a large proportion of silver atoms
are in direct contact with their environment. In
addition, nanoparticles are sufficiently small to
pass through outer cell membranes and enter cells'
A recent medical study showed that only silver nanoparticles
with sizes less than 10 nm (1,000 times smaller than
the width of a human hair) were able to enter cells
and disrupt them. The same study showed that silver
nanoparticles are highly toxic to the bacteria that
colonise the lungs of cystic fibrosis sufferers often
with fatal consequences.
Another study indicated that there may be a role
for nanoparticles in the fight against AIDS by showing
that silver nanoparticles of the same size attach
themselves to structures on the surface of the HIV
virus and prevent it from binding to host cells.
Professor of Nanoscience at the University of Leicester,
Chris Binns, commented: "Clearly there are important
medical treatments using silver nanoparticles and
this is just one of the examples of how nanotechnology
shows great promise in healthcare.
"One of the problems, however, is in getting
assemblies of nanoparticles of the same size into
the right environment, for example on the surface
of a wound dressing or in a colloidal suspension
that can either be turned into an aerosol or injected
into the body.
"The medical studies carried out so far acknowledge
that in existing commercially available nanoparticle
suspensions, only 1% of the material consists of
nanoparticles of the right size. The Condensed Matter
Physics group in Leicester has many years' experience
in designing and building sources of size-selected
"With support from the "Higher Education
Reach -Out to Business and the Community Innovation
and Regional Fund" (HIRF) this is now being
put to good use to develop a machine specifically
to produce nanoparticle assemblies for medical applications.
The impressive uniformity of silver nanoparticles
produced by the source is illustrated in the figure
(available on request) and the design enables the
nanoparticles to either be coated onto a solid surface
or incorporated into a liquid suspension."
Trials of the anti-microbial effectiveness of the
nanoparticle suspensions will begin shortly.
Director of Press and Publications
University of Leicester
tel: 0116 252 3335
THE UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER
The University of Leicester is the UK's top ranked
University for teaching quality and overall satisfaction
amongst universities teaching full time students
and was rated joint 1st in the UK in the 2005 National
Student Survey. Founded in 1921, the University of
Leicester has 19,000 students from 120 countries.
Teaching in 18 subject areas has been graded Excellent
by the Quality Assurance Agency- including 14 successive
scores - a consistent run of success matched by just
one other UK University.
Leicester is world renowned for the invention of
DNA Fingerprinting by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys
and houses Europe's biggest academic Space Research
Centre. 90% of staff are actively engaged in high
quality research and 13 subject areas have been awarded
the highest rating of 5* and 5 for research quality,
demonstrating excellence at an international level.
The University's research grant income places it
among the top 20 UK research universities.
The University employs over 3,000 people, has a
turnover of £300m, covers an estate of 94 hectares
and is engaged in a £300m investment programme-
among the biggest of any UK university.