Researchers at the University of Chicago have developed a groundbreaking treatment for COVID-19. They created nanoparticles that capture SARS-CoV-2 viruses in the body and then use the human immune system to destroy them.
Special nanotraps attract the virus by mimicking the target cells that the virus infects. When the virus binds to them, the traps isolate the virus from other cells and direct it to be destroyed by the immune system.
In theory, these nanoparticles could also be used to combat variants of the virus, leading to a potentially new way of suppressing the virus in the future.
The results were recently published in the journal Matter.
To develop nanotraps, the research team studied the mechanism that SARS-CoV-2 uses to bind to cells.
Made from safe polymers and phospholipids, nanoparticles are about 500 nanometers in diameter – much smaller than a cell, so they can reach different areas of the body and trap the virus more efficiently. On the surface of some nanoparticles, scientists placed ACE2 proteins, which the coronavirus targets, while others – neutralizing antibodies.
Experts tested the safety of the system in a mouse model and found no toxicity. They then tested the nanoparticles on a model of a virus that does not replicate (creating two daughter DNA molecules based on the parent DNA molecule) in human lung cells in tissue culture plates and found that they completely block cell entry.
The captured viruses and nanoparticles were subsequently destroyed by macrophages – cells capable of capturing and digesting bacteria, dead cells, toxins, etc.
The researchers hope to continue testing the system, including additional tests with the live virus and its many variants.
The nanotraps can be stored in a standard freezer and ultimately injected with an intranasal spray, which places them directly into the respiratory system and makes them most effective.