Breakthrough in Basic Research May Defeat COVID-19
Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19. Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refers to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)
Exciting results indicate that a novel idea might bring COVID-19 under control. The new technology has been shown to work at the lab bench. Now scientists are doing animal studies and, later, human studies.
Scientists at Boston University (BU) and the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) have made coated nanoparticles that are covered with pieces of lung cell membrane. (About 1000 tiny particles, or “nanoparticles,” can line up in the space equal to the width of a human hair.) The coated nanoparticles mimic the lung cells that normally bind the virus and allow an infection to start. But, when the virus tries to infect a coated nanoparticle, the virus dies. Essentially, the coated nanoparticle is a lethal decoy.
Research in the lab indicates that the new technology might be able to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, if the technology works in humans, coated nanoparticles will likely be important for inactivating other viruses and for dealing with future pandemics.
Specific nanoparticles can be made to mimic any cell that any virus infects. So, coated nanoparticles can be made that are specific for any virus (for example, for influenza virus or for Ebola virus). Also, once the cell normally infected by a previously unknown virus to start an infection has been identified (as it was for COVID-19), the relevant coated nanoparticles can be made. So, a novel virus can be inactivated even though little is known about the molecular details of its biology.
Scientists were surprised to learn that the coated nanoparticles for COVID-19 bind the SARS-2 coronavirus even better than the lung cells normally infected by the virus. So, this approach for COVID-19 is likely be very efficient.
In COVID-19 infections, sometimes the immune response is too active and causes severe disease or death. The dexamethasone breakthrough I wrote about earlier works by dampening the immune response. The scientists surprisingly found that coating another batch of nanoparticles with membrane pieces from cells of the immune system also dampened the immune response.
The scientists envision a protective coated nanoparticle mixture for COVID-19 that has two types of coated nanoparticles (one that mimics the lung cells that are infected and another that dampens the immune response). The mixture would be simply administered as a nasal spray.
Stay Safe and Healthy!
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(Photos compliments of contributor.)
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