Researchers have used decoy Nanosponges that are covered by a membrane consisting of lung and immune cells to attracts the virus and prevent it from attacking the lung cells.
Diverting the virus to prevent infection: Researchers at Boston University have succeeded in applying this method to COVID-19. In an article published in Nano Letters, they explain how they managed to capture the new coronavirus. “At first I was skeptical because it seemed too good to be true,” says Anna Honko, one of the study’s authors. She says she was surprised by the results.
Nanosponges, a thousand times smaller than a single hair
The researchers produced tiny polymer beads covered with a membrane of lung and immune cells. “It looks like a nanoparticle wrapped in pieces of cell membranes,” the researcher said. “They are small pieces of plastic that contain only the outer parts of a cell,” said Anthony Griffiths, co-author of the study. This makes it possible to encase the virus like a sponge. Each of these nanosponges is 1,000 times smaller than a human hair. “Our hypothesis is that this acts as a decoy,” adds Anthony Griffiths.
A double action
In one experiment, Anna Honko mixed these “fake” cells with lung cells and SARS-CoV-2 to observe the results. Nanosponges are more attractive to the virus than lung cells. Then, when it gets trapped in this man-made cell, the virus dies. This system prevents SARS-CoV-2 from attacking the cells and multiplying in the body.
Anna Honko sees a second interest in using this device: it would allow the inflammatory response to the virus to be reduced. Inflammation in the lungs is one of the serious consequences of COVID-19, and nanosponges can attract inflammatory cells and keep the immune system from overreacting.
A treatment adapted to humans?
So far, tests have been conducted in a laboratory with cultured cells, but researchers believe it could work in the human body. The immune system would then be able to eliminate the nanosponges naturally.
Scientists discovered how to stop the coronavirus infection in its tracks by diverting its attention away from living lung cells. This new “nanosponge” technology:
⏺️ mops up the virus like a sponge,
⏺️ spares lung cells, &
⏺️ prevents lung inflammation.https://t.co/jjCgZz5uZf pic.twitter.com/uZzVD98HdY
— BU Experts (@BUexperts) June 18, 2020
The research team will conduct more experiments on animals before it can be tested on humans. Scientists are already thinking about what form this treatment might take. “We should be able to get it directly into the nose,” says Anthony Griffiths, “it could look like a nasal spray. His colleague talks about a safe and effective method of administration. “If you want to treat patients who are intubated, you can do it directly into the lungs. The two researchers are also interested in other diseases that could be treated with this method, such as Ebola. “I’m curious as to how far we can go with this technology,” says Honko.