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

Structural properties of SARS-CoV-2 spike S1 protein and its interaction with different surfaces. (a) Schematic representation of 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 description 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 wiring of 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 of SARS-CoV-2, a strain of the coronavirus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic, become trapped when they come into contact with silicon, gold and copper, and that electric fields can be used to destroy the spike proteins that probably kill 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 bound and stuck to certain types of surfaces.

“Coronaviruses have spike proteins on their periphery which enable them to enter host cells and cause infection, and we have found that these proteins become attached to the surface of silicon, gold and copper through a reaction that forms a strong chemical bond,” said Dr. Darwish. .

“We believe these materials can 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 catching 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 impulses.

“We discovered that electric current can pass through the tip protein and because of this the protein can be detected electrically. In the future, this discovery could be translated to involve applying the solution to a mouth or nose swab and testing it in a small electronic device that is capable of electrically detecting the proteins of the virus. This would provide instant, more sensitive and accurate COVID testing,” said Mr. Thief.

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

“So by incorporating materials like copper or silicon into air filters, we can potentially trap and consequently stop the spread of the virus. Also importantly, by incorporating electric fields through air filters for example, we also expect this to deactivate the virus.”

“The research is exciting both fundamentally as it enables a better understanding of the coronavirus and from an applied perspective in helping to 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 single-protein circuit study, Chemical Science (2023). DOI: 10.1039/D2SC06492H

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