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Designer nanoparticles destroy range of viruses
January 7, 2018, 4:40 pm

Most antiviral drugs currently available are limited in that they act against one or a small handful of related viruses. Though a few broad-spectrum drugs that prevent viral entry into healthy cells exist, they usually need to be taken continuously to prevent infection, and resistance through viral mutation is a serious risk.

Now, an international team of virus experts and biochemists from Switzerland, Italy, France, the Czech Republic and the United States, have designed new anti-viral nanoparticles that bind to a range of viruses, including herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus, respiratory syncytial virus and Dengue and Lentiviruses. Unlike other broad-spectrum antivirals, which simply prevent viruses from infecting cells, the new nanoparticles can destroy viruses.

The new nanoparticles mimic a cell surface protein called heparin sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG). A significant portion of viruses, including HIV, enter and infect healthy cells by first binding to HSPGs on the cell surface. Unlike existing drugs that do not destroy the virus but mimics the HSPG and weakly binds to the virus thereby preventing it from binding to cells, the new anti-viral nanoparticle can not only bind more tightly to viral particles but also destroy them at the same time.

The team's final ‘draft’ of the anti-viral nanoparticle can bind irreversibly to a range of viruses, and cause lethal deformations to the viruses, but at the same time they had no effect on healthy tissues or cells. In vitro experiments with the nanoparticles showed that they bound irreversibly to a wide range of viruses, including the herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus, syncytial virus, Dengue virus and Lentivirus. The prototype nanoparticle is the first step to developing a very effective and safe broad-spectrum anti-viral drug that could be used to save millions of lives, said the researchers about their new designer nanoparticle.

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