COVID-19, the disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 does not have any vaccine or specific treatment for its cure. Researchers have been trying to learn as much as they can about SARS-CoV-2. It is a strain from the family of viruses known as coronavirus. Thomas Webster is a Chemical Engineer at Northeastern University, who specialises in developing nano-scale medicine and technology to treat diseases. He deals with nanoparticles and is part of a contingency of scientists that are contributing ideas and technology to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
Webster believes that the idea of using nanoparticles is that the virus behind COVID-19 consists of a structure of a similar scale as his nanoparticles. Here, the matter is ultra-small, about ten thousand times smaller than the width of a single strand of hair. He is proposing particles of similar sizes that could attach to SARS-CoV-2 viruses, which would, in turn, disrupt their structure with a combination of infrared light treatment. Then, it would halt the ability of the virus to survive and reproduce in the body. Finding and neutralising viruses with nanomedicine is at the core of their research. They call it theranostics, which focuses on combining therapy and diagnosis. Using that approach, Webster’s lab has specialised in nanoparticles to fight the microbes that cause influenza and tuberculosis.
Mostly, the SARS-CoV-2 spreads through tiny droplets of viral particles. Research says that those germs may survive for days when they attach themselves to countertops, handrails, and other hard surfaces. Thus, Webster says that is one reason to make theranostics with nanoparticles the focus. Nanoparticles can disable these pathogens even before they break into the body, as they hold on to different objects and surfaces. His lab has developed materials that can be sprayed on objects to form nanoparticles and attack viruses. That same technology can be fine-tuned and tweaked to target a wide range of viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Nanoparticles can move through our body without disrupting other functions. An alternative can be producing synthetic molecules. However, in the case of chemotherapies used to treat cancer cells, such synthetic drugs can cause severe side effects that kill cancer cells, as well as other cells in the body.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman