University of Arkansas researchers will use a $498,983 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the anti-microbial mechanisms of silver nanoparticles to find ways they could be used to fight antibiotic-resistant infections. On Monday (Aug. 13), the UA announced the grant and how it will be used.
Yong Wang, assistant professor of physics, and Jingyi Chen, associate professor of physical chemistry, will work on the project with Mark Smeltzer, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. They will use an advanced imaging technique called super resolution fluorescence microscopy, which can achieve a resolution of 20 nanometers — 10 times more powerful than conventional light microscopes — to study the effects of silver nanoparticles on E. coli bacteria. A human strand of DNA is 2.5 nanometers in diameter, and bacterium is 2.5 micrometers long, or about 1,000 times larger than human DNA.
The imaging system allows researchers to study the proteins, DNA and cell membranes of the bacteria and better understand how silver nanoparticles would impact them.
“Previously, it’s been hard to visualize how the proteins in bacteria are arranged and how they move,” Wang said.
The researchers also plan to find ways to increase the effectiveness of metal nanoparticles by changing their size, surface and shape.