Researcher Anna Honko prepares the assay in the BSL-4 in the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL). [Courtesy of the Griffiths lab at Boston University's National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL)]
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have developed “nanosponges” that can attract and neutralize SARS-CoV-2 in cell culture, causing the virus to lose its ability to hijack host cells and reproduce. Cloaked in the cell membranes from either human lung cells or human immune cells, the nanoparticles are designed to protect the healthy cells that the virus invades, rather than targeting the virus itself. The approach effectively uses nanoparticles to soak up harmful pathogens and toxins, hence the name nanosponges.
When tested by researchers at Boston University, both the lung cell and immune cell types of nanosponge caused the SARS-CoV-2 virus to lose nearly 90% of its viral infectivity in a dose-dependent manner. Viral infectivity is a measure of the ability of the virus to enter the host cell and exploit its resources to replicate and produce additional infectious viral particles. “Traditionally, drug developers for infectious diseases dive deep on the details of the pathogen in order to find druggable targets,” said Liangfang Zhang, PhD, a nanoengineering professor at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering. “Our approach is different. We only need to know what the target cells are. And then we aim to protect the targets by creating biomimetic decoys.”
Zhang and colleagues reported on their technology in Nano Letters, in a paper titled, “Cellular Nanosponges Inhibit SARS-CoV-2 Infectivity.”
Scientists searching for new antiviral drugs need to understand the molecular mechanisms of viral infection, but this is a particular challenge with emerging viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, the authors noted. Moreover, antiviral medicines often target a single viral species, and so aren’t applicable to other viral species or families, and they may also become ineffective as the target virus mutates. “Therefore, an effective therapeutic agent to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infectivity, as well as its potential mutated species, would be a significant game-changer in the battle against this public health crisis,” they continued.
Originally published by
GEN Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News | June 18, 2020