A team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) through rigorous and extensive research have now has created a new approach to help in finding effective antidotes against viruses.
In what appears like a breakthrough in medical science, the nano- capsules derived from a genetic material using the DNA origami method, can now neutralize viruses. The new method, which has been already tested to see ensure its effectiveness can be used against hepatitis and adeno-associated viruses in cell cultures. There is a probability that it may pave way for the successful treatment of against corona viruses.
To develop vaccine especially a new one is usually an extensive and tedious process. Although some infections can be prevented by vaccination, it can hardly treat acute viral infections.
The Technical University of Munich researchers, the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Brandeis University (USA) are proposing a novel strategy for the treatment of acute viral infections. Through the nanostructures made of DNA they developed, viruses can easily be trapped and made to be less dangerous. The material used for the nanostructures comprises our genetic material.
Hendrik Dietz, A Professor of Biomolecular Nanotechnology at the Physics Department of the Technical University of Munich, and his team have been working on the development of virus-sized objects even before the advent of the Corona virus shook the world by storm.
Hendrik Dietz, supported by Seth Fraden and Michael Hagan from Brandeis University in the USA, based their research on geometrical principles discovered by biologist Donald Caspar and the biophysicist, Aaron Klug. Hendrik Dietz, Seth Fraden and Michael Hagan later developed a concept that made it possible to produce artificial hollow bodies the size of a virus.
In 2019, the researchers wanted to know if hollow bodies could be used as a kind of “virus trap and also If virus-binding molecules were to be assembled on the inside, would it enable the hollow bodies to bind viruses tightly and thus eject them from spreading It is thus required that the hollow bodies should have an expansive large openings through which viruses can find their way into the shells.
Dietz talking about the Origami technology said:
“None of the objects that we had built using DNA origami technology at that time would have been able to engulf a whole virus — they were simply too small”.
“Building stable hollow bodies of this size were a huge challenge.” , he added
Using basic geometric shape of the icosahedrons, an object made up of 20 triangular surfaces, the team decided to build the hollow bodies using three-dimensional, triangular plates for the virus trap.
Edges must be slightly beveled in other for the DNA plates to assemble into larger geometrical structures to ensure that the panels self-assemble to the team desired objects, adequate positioning of binding points and making the right choice on the part of the expert is highly required
According to Hendrik Dietz,
“In this way, we can now program the shape and size of the desired objects using the exact shape of the triangular plates,”
“We can now produce objects with up to 180 subunits and achieve yields of up to 95 percent. The route there was, however, quite rocky, with many iterations.”
Viruses are reliably blocked by ensuring the binding points on the edges of the triangles are tightly varied. By so doing, scientists can not only create closed hollow spheres, but also create spheres with openings or half-shells. They can then be used as virus traps.
Prof. Ulrike Protzer, head of the Institute for Virology at TUM and director of the Institute for Virology at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and rest of the team had tested the virus traps. Adeno-associated viruses and hepatitis B virus cores were tested.
“Even a simple half-shell of the right size shows a measurable reduction in virus activity,” says Hendrik Dietz.
“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.”
The team irradiated the finished building blocks with UV light and treated the outside with polyethylene glycol and oligolysine, in other to stop the DNA particles from being immediately degraded in body fluids. For 24 hours, the DNA particles were stable in mouse serum for 24 hours.
The researchers are prepared now to test this new approach on living mice.
“We are very confident that this material will also be well tolerated by the human body,” says Dietz.
“Bacteria have a metabolism. We can attack them in different ways, “says Prof. Ulrike Protzer.
“Viruses, on the other hand, do not have their own metabolism, which is why antiviral drugs are almost always targeted against a specific enzyme in a single virus. Such a development takes time. If the idea of simply mechanically eliminating viruses can be realized, this would be widely applicable and thus an important breakthrough, especially for newly emerging viruses,” Protzer concluded.
“Materials to be used for the development of these virus traps can be mass-produced biotechnologically at a reasonable cost.”
“In addition to the proposed application as a virus trap, our programmable system also creates other opportunities,” says Hendrik Dietz.
It is hoped that this new discovery would be conceivable to use it as a multivalent antigen carrier for vaccinations, as a DNA or RNA carrier for gene therapy or as a transport vehicle for drugs, and help in the treatment of other viral infections.