Researchers are constantly looking for ways to combat disease, whether it is a familiar one like the flu or something never seen before like the Zika virus. Nanotechnology may offer hope to develop treatments for both. Dr. Tom Webster, chair of Northeastern University’s chemical engineering department and the president of the Society of Biomaterials, is working with nanoparticles to find a delivery system that will target the nano-structures of such viruses.
With the world’s focus on the spread of the Zika virus, Webster’s current project has gained significant attention. Using nanoparticles created in his lab, he attaches them to the viruses , which prevents them from entering healthy cells and replicating. Webster believes this emerging technology could be ready for clinical trials within the next five years. He believes that this form of treatment could also be ideal to fight diseases like the flu which mutate frequently and outpace the development of new vaccines.
Webster has partnered with Colombia’s University of Antioquia, known for its expertise in tropical plants and their medicinal properties, to further two separate projects utilizing nanoparticles and the proteins from the plants. The first is aimed at changing the fluorescence of viruses by attaching nanoparticles with fluorescent proteins, making it easier to detect whether surfaces like desks and phones are contaminated. Webster’s other project looks to circulate synthetic immune cells through the bloodstream and attach to viruses and clear them from the body. This project could target almost any disease and give those fighting chronic diseases a chance to overcome the illness.
While years of research lie ahead for Webster, nanotechnology is poised to play a part in the fight against viruses like Zika. To learn more specifics of Webster’s project click here.
The American Chemistry Council’s Nanotechnology Panel promotes the responsible development of nanotechnology by advancing good product stewardship practices among nanomaterial producers and users. Panel members have the opportunity to help shape the industry’s positions on nanotechnology regulation, research, and stewardship practices and build relationships with other leaders in the field.