New Virus Trap Technology Neutralizes Viruses With 'DNA Origami'

These tiny devices trap viruses before they can infect human cells...and they're made from genetic material.
Chris Young

Researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) developed a new treatment method that traps viral infections, rendering them harmless, a press statement reveals.

Using a "DNA origami" method, the researchers built nano-capsules tailored from genetic material that can neutralize viruses by capturing them.

The team behind the new technology has been experimenting with DNA programming for years. Their DNA origami method essentially programs DNA to fold into three-dimensional, triangular plates in specific pre-programmed shapes.

For their latest work, they made "hollow nano objects," which trap viruses with the aid of virus-binding molecules, preventing them from infecting other cells.

The tiny virus traps were built in a shape called an icosahedron, made up of 20 triangular surfaces. The inside of the traps are lined with molecules that bind to viruses, helping the devices to trap and contain the virus.

"Even a simple half-shell of the right size shows a measurable reduction in virus activity," said Hendrik Dietz, coauthor of the study.

"If we put five binding sites for the virus on the inside, for example suitable antibodies, we can already block the virus by 80 percent, if we incorporate more, we achieve complete blocking," he continued.

Virus trap tech could also be used for targeted treatments

The team tested their traps in lab cell cultures with mouse serum, human cells, and viruses, and found that they could successfully capture virus cells before they could latch onto the human cells.

The tiny structures remained stable in the serum for a period of 24 hours and they caught two types of viruses, hepatitis B and adeno-associated viruses (AAVs), preventing them from infecting the human cells in the serum.

While these virus traps display great potential as a preventative measure, Dietz also explained that the same technology could potentially be used as a transport vehicle for drugs within the body. They could be programmed to carry medicine and release it once at a tumor, for example.

Similarly, in March this year, researchers from Bionaut Labs announced that they are developing tiny injectable robots that travel through the bloodstream using a drill motion. Those tiny machines are being developed to deliver targeted treatments directly to tumors, allowing strong medications to be less detrimental to other parts of the body.

Next, the TUM researchers aim to test their virus traps inside the bodies of mice. They believe their DNA origami structures will eventually be injectable into humans, allowing for specialized treatments that trap virus cells before they have the chance to infect human cells. 

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