Ultra small sponge like particles covered by human lung and immune cell membranes can soak up, attract and neutralise the Coronavirus, says a lab study that may lead to new therapies for Coronavirus.
According to the research, published in the journal Nano Letters, these nano sponges, which are thousand times smaller than the width of a single human hair, are named so as they soak up harmful toxins and pathogens.
These pathogens were developed by engineers, including from the University of California San Diego in the United States, for their ability to prevent the novel COVID-19, from hijacking host cells.
Following incubation with the nanosponges, researchers said, Coronavirus is neutralised and unable to infect cells. In experiments performed on lab grown cells, researchers said nano sponges built with lung and immune cell membranes cause Coronavirus to lose 90% of it's viral infectivity in a dose dependent manner.
Viral infectivity as explained by scientists is a measure of the ability of a virus to enter the host cell and exploit its resources to produce and replicate additional infectious copies of itself.
Liangfang Zhang, study co-author, a nano engineering professor at the San Diego said, Traditionally, drug developers for infectious disease dive deep on the details of the pathogen in order to find druggable targets.
Zhang said, we only need to know what the target cells are. And then we aim to protect the targets by creating biometric decoys.
The scientists explained that instead of targeting the Coronavirus itself, the nanosponges are designed to protect the healthy cells which the Coronavirus itself.
Researchers 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 SARS CoV 2.
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.
Reserachers said these, membranes cover the sponges with all the same protein receptors as the cells they impersonate , adding that this includes whatever receptors the novel COVID-19 uses to enter cells in the human body.
In the research, the researchers prepared several different concentrations of nanosponges in solution to test against Coronavirus. Researchers then tested the ability of various concentrations of eaach nanosponge type to reduce the infectivity of the Coronavirus behind the pandemic.
Scientist found that at a concentration of five miligrammes per millilitre, the lung cell membrane cloaked sponges inhibited 93% of the viral infectivity of Coronavirus.
According to the research, the macrophage-cloaked sponges inhibited 88% of the viral infectivity.
Anna Honko, study co-author from Boston University said, From the perspective of a virologist and immunologist, the nanosponge platform was immediately appealing as a potential antivirus because of it's ability to work against viruses of any kind.
Honko explained, this means that as opposed to an antibody or drug that might be very specifically block Coronavirus replication or infection, these cell membrane nanosponges might function in a more holistic manner in treating a broad spectrum of viral infections.
Zhang said, another interseting aspect of our approach is that even the Coronavirus mutates, as long as the Coronavirus can still invade the cells we wre mimicking, our nanosponge approach should still work.