Scientists use 'nanosponges' to soak up, neutralise coronavirus in lab: Study
Los Angeles[ maha media ] Ultrasmall sponge-like particles covered by human lung and immune cell membranes can attract, soak up, and neutralise the novel coronavirus, says a lab study that may lead to new therapies for COVID-19.
According to the research, published in the journal Nano Letters, these “nanosponges,” which are a thousand times smaller than the width of a single human hair, are named so as they soak up harmful pathogens and toxins.
These particles were developed by engineers, including those from the University of California (UC) San Diego in the US, for their ability to prevent the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, from hijacking host cells.
Following incubation with the nanosponges, the researchers said, “SARS-CoV-2 is neutralized and unable to infect cells.” In experiments performed on lab-grown cells, they said nanosponges built with lung and immune cell membranes caused SARS-CoV-2 to lose nearly 90 percent of its “viral infectivity” in a dose-dependent manner.
Viral infectivity, the scientists explained, is a measure of the ability of a virus to enter the host cell and exploit its resources to replicate and produce additional infectious copies of itself.
“Traditionally, drug developers for infectious diseases dive deep on the details of the pathogen in order to find druggable targets. Our approach is different,” said study co-author Liangfang Zhang, a nanoengineering professor at UC San Diego.
“We only need to know what the target cells are. And then we aim to protect the targets by creating biomimetic decoys,” Zhang said.
The scientists explained that instead of targeting the virus itself, the nanosponges are designed to protect the healthy cells which the virus invades.
They said the nanosponges when engineered with fragments of the outer membranes of the human immune system’s macrophage cells can also soak up inflammatory cell-cell signalling proteins called cytokines.
According to the scientists, the cytokines, which are sometimes overdriven by immune response to the infection, are implicated in some of the most dangerous, and sometimes deadly, aspects of COVID-19. Describing the structure of the nanosponges, the researchers said they consist of a polymer core coated in membranes extracted from either the cells lining the lung’s outer layer, or the immune system’s macrophages.