Sponge-like hydrogels can filter out viruses from human blood. Photo: Clark School of Engineering - University of Maryland
Read aloud American researchers have developed a sponge that can filter viruses from human blood. It purifies the blood in a manner similar to dialysis, and could be used not only to fight infection but also to produce vaccines or diabetes medicines, the scientists around Peter Kofinas of the University of Maryland in College Park hope, The virus sponge is based on the principle of so-called molecular imprinting: The researchers puncture a sponge-like material with a stencil and thus produce imprints of a certain shape, such as that of a virus. When this virus penetrates the sponge, it gets stuck in the wells and is filtered out. Kofinas and his colleagues have already successfully tested this technique for plant viruses and the parrot virus B19, the causative agent of the ring rubella, and now also want to develop a suitable sponge against the bird flu virus H5N1.

According to the researchers, there are many areas of application for the virus catcher. Thus, dialysis machines can be expanded with the technology, and hospitals can use the sponge virus in a similar manner as the artificial kidney. "In a viral infection, patients simply go to the hospital and then have their blood purified from this virus, " explains Kofinas. Depending on the shape of the impressions, the sponge, like a universal filter, can capture all or only certain, particularly aggressive strains of pathogens, according to the researchers. In the production of vaccines, the virus catcher allows to remove the pathogen from the actual drug? a hitherto very complicated procedure.

The sponge can not only catch viruses. Spongy medications or dietary supplements could also break down excess sugars and regulate the strict diet of diabetics, the researchers believe.

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