Study finds silicon, gold and copper among new weapons against COVID-19

Study finds silicon, gold and copper among new weapons against COVID-19
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Structural features of the SARS-CoV-2 spike S1 protein and its interaction with different surfaces. (a) Schematic representation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (i), its spike protein (S1 + S2) amino acid sequence showing the positions of the disulfide bridges in each domain (ii), with the structure of the S1 subunit containing 4 disulfide bridges at the RBD, 3 disulfide bridges at the NTD and 3 disulfide bridges at the S1/S2 cleavage site (iii). (b) Schematic illustration of the interaction of SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV) spike protein with different surfaces. The surfaces were incubated in the spike protein solution in phosphate buffered saline (PBS), pH 7.4 before further analysis. (c) Schematic showing the conduction of the SAR-CoV-2 spike S1 protein between two gold nano-electrodes in a scanning tunneling microscopy-break junction (STM-BJ) experiment. Credit: Chemical science (2023). DOI: 10.1039/D2SC06492H

New Curtin research has found that the spike proteins in SARS-CoV-2, a strain of the coronavirus that caused the covid-19 pandemic, become stuck when they come into contact with silicon, gold and copper, and that electric fields can be used to destroy the spike proteins , which probably kills the virus.

Leading researcher Dr. Nadim Darwish, from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University, said the study found that the spike proteins from the coronavirus were attached and stuck to certain types of surfaces.

“Coronavirus has nail proteins on their periphery that allows them to penetrate host cells and cause infection and we have found that these proteins stick to the surface of silicon, gold and copper through a reaction that forms a strong chemical bond, says Dr Darwish.

“We believe these materials could be used to trap the coronavirus by being used in air filters, as a coating for benches, tables and walls or in the fabric of wipes and face masks.”

“By trapping coronaviruses in these ways, we would prevent them from reaching and infecting more people.”

Co-author Ph.D. candidate Essam Dief, also from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University, said the study also found that the coronavirus could be detected and destroyed using electrical pulses.

“We discovered it electric current can pass through the spike protein and because of this the protein can be detected electrically. In the future, this finding could be translated into applying the solution to a mouth or nose swab and testing it in a small electronic device that can electrically detect the virus’s proteins. This would provide instant, more sensitive and accurate covid testing,” said Mr. Dief.

“Even more exciting, by applying electrical pulses, we found that the structure of the spike protein changes and at a certain size of the pulses the protein is destroyed. Therefore, electric fields can potentially inactivate coronaviruses.”

“So, by incorporating materials like copper or silicon in air filters we can potentially capture and consequently stop the spread of the virus. Also important, by incorporating electric fields through air filter for example, we also expect this to inactivate the virus.”

“The study is exciting both fundamentally because it enables a better understanding of the coronavirus and from an applied perspective to help develop tools to combat the transmission of current and future coronaviruses.”

The results are published in the journal Chemical science.

More information:
Essam M. Dief et al, SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins react with Au and Si, are electrically conductive and denature at 3 × 108 V m−1: a surface binding and a single protein circuit study, Chemical science (2023). DOI: 10.1039/D2SC06492H

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