Biotechnology, SARS-CoV-2


Student coordinator: -Rahul Dutta, Srijani Basak (3rd-year biotechnology)

Nano-biotechnology is one of the fascinating and latest areas of science dealing with the conceptualization and designing of biological machines at the nanoscale level. The application of these biomachines also known as nanobots may vary from targeted drug delivery to real-time diagnostics. The nanoscale size of nanobots provides them easy access to targeted areas through the blood circulatory system and its biological origin reduces side effects largely post-application. In Adamas University, Nano-biotechnology is a part of the curriculum for the students of B.Tech Biotechnology.

The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV 2 (Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) isolated from Wuhan, China is posing a challenge to the scientific community and mankind throughout the world. It’s a mutated version of earlier identified similar viruses like SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014 all belong to Coronaviridaefamily. The World Health Organization (WHO) coined this disease as COVID-19 and also declared it a pandemic in March 2020. COVID 19 common symptoms are – Fever, dry cough, shortness of breath which leads to severe acute respiratory syndrome that can turn fatal in a comorbid condition of the patient.

The primary virulence factor of SARS-CoV 2 is the surface Spike(S) protein. The S-protein is susceptible to mutations which bind strongly to the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE2) receptor present on the cell surface of the respiratory tract epithelium. ACE2 binding mediates the entry of virus particles into the cell cytoplasm where it undergoes replication. The coat protein then synthesized is a product of the translation of the RNA. Once fully assembled the virus particles are released from the vesicles. In the lungs, the virus infects trachea, bronchi which triggers inflammation. Subsequently, it damages the alveolar lining which causes fluid leakage in the alveoli and hinders oxygen exchange, leading to a reduction in oxygen saturation.

Among the increasing number of COVID-19 related casualties worldwide, a glimpse of hope and success can be seen from the news of vaccines that entered clinical trials recently. US-based biotechnology company Moderna, Inc, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, and China-based CanSino Biologics are main competitors in the race of vaccine development. Moderna, Inc leads by entering Phase-II clinical trials while casino recently received approval for initiating clinical trials.

As vaccine development in its way, its effective delivery in our physiological system is also very important. Nanotechnology-based designing of microneedle array is an upcoming area of drug delivery with a several-fold increase in potency. Microneedles consist of several projections of about 25 to 2000 um in length arranged in the form of an array on base support in the form of a patch. Microfabrication technology has the potential to revolutionize drug delivery and has successfully been demonstrated in clinical procedure includes in vitro and in vivo delivery of biomolecules. The first microneedle (MN) devices were developed using silicon but other materials like dextrin, glass, maltose, and other polymers have also been tested as per requirement. This procedure is called micromachining or micro-electromechanical systems(MEMS). Fabrication is done on thin polymeric films of the size of a contact lens, using suitable etching techniques.

Keeping in view, the upsurge of the novel SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and the subsequent demand for a lasting cure, researchers of the Pittsburgh School of Medicine, USA, and Carnegie Mellon University have jointly developed a Microneedle array that successfully delivered a COVID 19 vaccine to mice, eliciting an immune response. The vaccine PittCoVacc is delivered through microneedles on a fingertip-sized patch.

Unlike the mRNA vaccine, PittCoVacc uses synthetic fragments of the viral spike (S) protein, which is injected through the patch with about 400 dissolvable microneedles. The microneedle-based vaccine is highly scalable which an important factor in a pandemic situation is. The vaccine does not need refrigeration and maintains its potency at room temperature for a long time. Unlike traditional hypodermal vaccines, it creates transient micropores in the skin without stimulating the dermal nerves and causing pain. Microneedle-based vaccines penetrate the skin which has an abundance of cells triggering an immune response. As a result, the vaccine can be effective at much lower doses than traditional vaccines.

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