THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

New nanotechnology could battle influenza, other viruses

Draper Laboratory, a not-for-profit engineering research and development organization, said on Tuesday that its new advances in nanotechnology could trap viruses like influenza before they can infect host cells.

Researchers from Draper, MIT, the University of Santa Barbara and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, described nanotraps as nanoparticles that act as viral traps and are made up of specific molecules found naturally in the human body. The team published research on nanotraps in the March issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The nanotraps work by baiting the flu virus with an appearance that looks like the surface of a cell that would be targeted by flu viruses in the human respiratory system. When the flu virus binds to the nanotrap instead of a host cell, it is cleared away with mucus and prevents infection.

In laboratory studies, the researchers demonstrated the effectiveness of nanotraps in countering multiple influenza strains in mice. The team also developed additional particles meant to target other types of respiratory viruses.

Draper also announced the development of its double-stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizer, or DRACO, which is a therapeutic drug that may be effective against a broad spectrum of viruses. In vivo, DRACO proved effective against influenza and three hemorrhagic fever viruses, and in vitro it was effective against 15 different viruses. DRACO works by finding and terminating infected cells to kill the infected cell and the virus it was helping to produce.

Research on nanotraps was originally funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Draper is continuing the research with the intention of applying it to the civilian community at large.

Research on DRACO was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the New England Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases.