Scientists from Germany and the United States have proposed a new approach to fight viruses. They have created nanotraps based on genetic material that traps and absorbs viruses. The authors believe that the method they developed will also work against the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The research results are published in the journal Nature Materials.
Today, there are no effective antiviral drugs for most dangerous viruses. Researchers from the Technical University of Munich, the Helmholtz Center in Munich, and the Brendays University in the United States have proposed a new strategy for the treatment of acute viral infections. The authors have developed nanostructures consisting of DNA that can mechanically capture and neutralize viruses.
In 1962, biologist Donald Kaspar and biophysicist Aaron Klug discovered geometric principles according to which the protein envelopes of viruses are built. Based on these characteristics, scientists from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), under the guidance of Hendrik Dietz, professor of biomolecular nanotechnology at the Faculty of Physics, have developed a method for creating self-assembled objects the size of a virus from DNA.
The researchers suggested that if such nanobodies were made hollow and covered from the inside with virus-binding molecules, then they could be used as virus traps. But the problem was that scientists at that time could not create hollow bodies of such a size that a virus would pass through their hole.
“None of the objects that we created using DNA origami technology at the time could have captured the whole virus – they were simply too small. Creating stable hollow bodies of this size was a huge challenge,” University of Munich words of the head of the study, Professor Hendrik Dietz.
The authors decided to construct hollow bodies for virus traps from three-dimensional triangular plates assembled in the shape of an icosahedron – an object consisting of twenty triangular surfaces. In order for DNA plates to assemble into larger geometric structures, their edges were made slightly beveled, and a certain location of the anchor points on the edges of the plates ensured self-assembly.
By changing the anchor points at the edges of the triangles, scientists were able to create not only closed hollow spheres but also spheres with holes or half-shells, which are especially convenient to use as traps for viruses.
“Using the precise shape of the triangular plates, we can now program the shape and size of the desired objects and produce objects containing up to 180 subunits. However, the path to this was rather difficult, with many iterations,” says Hendrik Dietz.
The new method has already been tested at the TUM Institute for Virology and the Helmholtz Center in Munich against hepatitis B and adenoviruses. The results showed that viruses in cell cultures are reliably blocked.
“Even a simple half-shell of a suitable size shows a noticeable decrease in the activity of the virus,” the scientist notes.
In the next stages of the study, the authors plan to test their development first on mice and then on humans.