All About the New Artificial Enzyme That Uses Light to Kill Bacteria

A 3-D rendering of live bacteria. (Image: Dr. Chaitali Dekiwadia / RMIT Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility)
A 3-D rendering of live bacteria. (Image: Dr. Chaitali Dekiwadia / RMIT Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility)

Researchers from RMIT University have developed a new artificial enzyme that uses light to kill bacteria. The artificial enzymes could one day be used in the fight against infections, and to keep high-risk public spaces like hospitals free of bacteria like E. coli and golden staph.

E. coli can cause dysentery and gastroenteritis, while golden staph is the major cause of hospital-acquired secondary infections and chronic wound infections.

Made from tiny nanorods — 1,000 times smaller than the thickness of the human hair — the “NanoZymes” use visible light to create highly reactive oxygen species that rapidly break down and kill bacteria.

Lead researcher Professor Vipul Bansal, who is an Australian Future Fellow and Director of RMIT’s Sir Ian Potter NanoBioSensing Facility, said the new NanoZymes offer a major cutting edge over nature’s ability to kill bacteria:

A 3-D rendering of dead bacteria after it has come into contact with the NanoZymes. (Credit: Dr. Chaitali Dekiwadia/ RMIT Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility)

A 3-D rendering of dead bacteria after it has come into contact with the NanoZymes. (Image: Dr. Chaitali Dekiwadia / RMIT Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility)

The NanoZymes work in a solution that mimics the fluid in a wound. This solution could be sprayed onto surfaces.

The NanoZymes are also produced as powders to mix with paints, ceramics, and other consumer products. This could mean bacteria-free walls and surfaces in hospitals.

Public toilets — places with high levels of bacteria, and in particular E. coli — are also a prime location for the NanoZymes, and the researchers believe their new technology may even have the potential to create self-cleaning toilet bowls.

While the NanoZymes currently use visible light from torches or similar light sources, in the future they could be activated by sunlight.

A microscopic view showing where bacteria has been eaten away by the NanoZymes. (Credit: Dr. Chaitali Dekiwadia/ RMIT Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility)

A microscopic view showing where bacteria has been eaten away by the NanoZymes. (Image: Dr. Chaitali Dekiwadia / RMIT Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility)

The researchers have shown that the NanoZymes work in a lab environment. The team is now evaluating the long-term performance of the NanoZymes in consumer products,  Bansal explained:

The NanoZyme breakthrough has recently been published in the journal ACS Applied Nano Materials.

Provided by: RMIT University [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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