Chinese scientists engineer nanomaterials that can stop COVID
Researchers from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, National Centre for Nanoscience and Technology, Institute of High Energy Physics, and the Kunming Institute of Zoology – all under the Chinese Academy of Sciences – have developed a new nanomaterial that can target Sars-CoV-2 viruses and remove them essentially stopping the virus in its tracks, according to an article published by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Friday.
Working on all major variants
The material works on all major variants including Alpha, Beta, Delta and Omicron with high biosafety. “It can be a promising therapy to fight the pandemic in the future,” a researcher involved in the study who asked not to be named told SCMP.
Nanomaterials are materials that measure only one billionth of a meter in length. These particular nanomaterials are called CIPSs because they are made of copper, indium, phosphorus, and sulphur.
CIPSs have the ability to selectively bind with the coronavirus’ spike protein, effectively blocking the infection process from going any further and causing COVID effects. This is because the Sars-CoV-2 virus invades human cells using this spike protein. Stop the spike protein and you stop the infection.
“It serves as a trap for the virus,” the National Centre for Nanoscience and Technology said on its website.
CIPSs essentially capture the virus to create a stable complex which is then eliminated by the body's macrophages. These are large white blood cells in the human immune system that digest foreign substances and expel them.
“Experiments show that CIPS effectively inhibits infection in cells, organoids and mice, and effectively relieves lung inflammation in mice caused by Sars-CoV-2 infection,” the study said.
Current vaccines and antibodies against Sars-CoV-2 reduce in effectiveness against variants like Omicron. This is because most antibodies are engineered to bind with one single location on the virus. However, the mutation in Omicron variants alters the structure of the surface. CIPSs, however, can effectively bind to multiple sites at the same time.
There are currently more than 1,000 new coronavirus mutant strains. Although the researchers could not test for all of them, the new CIPS materials were indeed found to be highly effective against the most common variants: Alpha, Beta, Delta and Omicron.
A thorough elimination process
Furthermore, the research team analyzed the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion process of CIPSs in mice and discovered that the materials had high biodegradability.
“Mice inhale CIPS through nasal drop and after seven days, it shows almost entire elimination of CIPS from the lung of mice,” the study said.
Now the materials need to undergo clinical trials to evaluate whether they can be suitable for human use.
“The safety assessment of anti-COVID-19 drugs includes a test for toxicity to the organ and immune system, a test for toxicity that causes deformities, and a test for allergies. The process is long and expensive, usually done by pharmaceutical companies,” a researcher who remained anonymous further said.
Even better, the nanomaterials are cheap enough to be viable for mass production and a wide variety of applications. “The nanomaterial could be used as a decontamination agent or surface-coating material to reduce Sars-CoV-2 infectivity,” concluded the researcher.
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