Medical

Advanced anti-viral nanoparticles target and destroy a range of viruses

Advanced anti-viral nanopartic...
A molecular dynamics model showing an antiviral nanoparticle binding to the outer envelope of the human papillomavirus
A molecular dynamics model showing an antiviral nanoparticle binding to the outer envelope of the human papillomavirus
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A molecular dynamics model showing an antiviral nanoparticle binding to the outer envelope of the human papillomavirus
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A molecular dynamics model showing an antiviral nanoparticle binding to the outer envelope of the human papillomavirus

Over the last decade, advances in nanotechnology have resulted in scientists creating amazingly specific nanoparticles that can travel through a human body and home in on specific cells. The latest nanoparticle innovation, driven by advanced computer modeling technologies, targets a broad range of devastating viruses and not only binds to them, but destroys them as well.

The first stage of attack for many viruses involves binding to a protein on the surface of cells called heparin sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG). Some existing antiviral drugs prevent infection by mimicking that HSPG bind to prevent the virus from bonding with the cells. A major limitation of these antiviral drugs is that this antiviral bond is not only weak, but it doesn't destroy the virus.

This new study from an international team of researchers set out to design a new anti-viral nanoparticle that could use this HSPG binding process to not only tightly bond with virus particles, but also destroy them. The work was carried out by a variety of researchers, from biochemists to experts in computer modeling, until the team developed an effective nanoparticle design that could, in theory, precisely target and kill specific virus particles.

"We knew the general composition of the HSPG-binding viral domains the nanoparticles should bind to, and the structures of the nanoparticles, but we did not understand why different nanoparticles behave so differently in terms of both binding strength and preventing viral entry into cells," says Petr Kral, one of the researchers on the project.

A molecular dynamics model showing an antiviral nanoparticle binding to the outer envelope of the human papillomavirus
A molecular dynamics model showing an antiviral nanoparticle binding to the outer envelope of the human papillomavirus

After developing a prototype nanoparticle design the team conducted several in vitro experiments that showed it was successful in binding to, and ultimately destroying, a broad spectrum of viruses, including herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus, respiratory syncytial virus and Dengue and Lentiviruses.

The research is still in its early stages with more in vivo animal testing needed to verify the safety of the nanoparticles, but this is a promising new pathway towards effective antiviral treatments that could save millions of people a year from fatal viral infections.

The study was published in the journal Nature Materials.

Source: University of Illinois, Chicago

3 comments
Chris74
and no way this tech could be abused to create biological weapons of unpresidented scale to destroy the body from within. its almost like these have been developed with a dual purpose in mind for just that kind of weapon. or even used like in Science fiction novels to create a cocoon inside of which a human body is genetically altered into something else entirely
Ralf Biernacki
The first antibiotic analog for viruses, wow. The next thing they should do is massively feed this drug to all sorts of livestock in farms, so that viruses can quickly develop immunity to it.
Sisko
Yes there is a danger of many horrors if this technology were to be misused. And unfortunately there are evil people who would misuse it if it were up to them. But that is a concern with any technology. It can be used for good or for evil. The alternative to developing it is to not advance, and that does not seem like a viable option, either. Especially since someone will developed it anyway. As for the viruses becoming immune. I think that is not anything to be concerned about. In order to infect someone, or some animal, a virus must somehow bond to or otherwise enter the host's cells. If the virus mutates and changes the shape or configuration of the binding port, the nanotechnology particle can be changed accordingly. And thus the virus can be matched, mutation for mutation. Another possible application might be to use a version of this nano tech to target and kill tiny worms that cause Elephantiasis and other afflictions caused by parasites, that till now have been very difficult or impossible to cure.