Artificial cells have achieved a near 100 % success rate in deactivating experimental analogs of Nipah and Hendra viruses, two emerging henipaviruses that can cause fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in humans.
The cells, developed by David LaVan and colleagues at US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Cornell University, New York, USA, can lure, entrap and inactivate the viruses. The cells consist of a nanoporous silica core wrapped in a lipid membrane so that they mimic a normal cell. The membrane is embedded with the protein Ephrin-B2, a known target of henipaviruses. Once inside the artificial cell, the viruses cannot escape, preventing infection of normal cells.
The technique offers a new research tool that can be used to study in detail the mechanism by which viruses attack cells, and could become the basis for a new class of antiviral drugs.
- Synthetic protocells interact with viral nanomachinery and inactivate pathogenic human virus
M. Porotto, F. Yi, A. Moscona, D.A. LaVan,
PLoS ONE 2011, 6(3), e16874.