A team of Foundry staff and users have developed a process for creating ultrathin, self-assembling sheets of synthetic materials that can function like designer flypaper in selectively binding with viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. In this way the new platform could potentially be used to inactivate or detect pathogens. The study was published earlier this month in the journal ACS Nano.
The sheets were designed to present simple sugars in a patterned way along their surfaces, and these sugars, in turn, were demonstrated to selectively bind with several proteins, including one associated with the Shiga toxin, which causes dysentery. Because the outside of our cells are flat and covered with sugars, these 2-D nanosheets can effectively mimic cell surfaces.
The peptoid platform is also more rugged and stable compared to natural biomolecules, he said, so it can potentially be deployed into the field for tests of bioagents by military personnel and emergency responders, for example. And peptoids – an analog to peptides in biology that are chains of amino acids – are cheap and easy-to-make polymers.
The nanosheets could also potentially be used in environmental cleanups to neutralize specific toxins and pathogens, and the sheets could potentially be scaled to target viruses like Ebola and bacteria like E. coli, and other pathogens.