Bioengineered Membrane to Capture Airborne COVID-19 Droplets – Inspired by Plant That Traps Insects

College of Maine, College of Massachusetts Amherst crew bioengineering a membrane to seize COVID-19 airborne droplets. Credit score: College of Maine

Staff’s inspiration comes from nature — the pitcher plant, with its liquid membrane that traps bugs.

Detection and evaluation of airborne coronavirus droplets utilizing a bioengineered membrane is the main target of exploratory analysis on the College of Maine and College of Massachusetts Amherst, funded by the Nationwide Science Basis (NSF).

Their inspiration comes from nature — the pitcher plant, with its liquid membrane that traps bugs. 

The mission, led by UMaine biomedical engineer Caitlin Howell and UMass Amherst chemical engineer Jessica Schiffman, obtained a greater than $225,000 NSF EAGER award — early-concept grants for exploratory analysis. Collaborating on the mission is UMaine virologist Melissa Maginnis.

In accordance to NSF, EAGER funding helps “untested, however doubtlessly transformative analysis concepts or approaches.” The analysis sometimes includes “radically totally different approaches, applies new experience or engages novel disciplinary or interdisciplinary views.”

The unfold of COVID-19 by way of aerosolized droplets by speaking, coughing, and sneezing is a serious concern throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The interdisciplinary analysis crew at UMaine and UMass Amherst hopes to develop novel know-how to facilitate the environment friendly assortment of viruses from bioaerosols.

Their mannequin for the membrane know-how is the carnivorous Nepenthes pitcher plant, which has a slippery rim and inside partitions that trigger bugs to fall and develop into trapped inside its digestive fluid. The crew will engineer a composite materials with a liquid layer on the floor of a membrane to seize pathogenic particles for evaluation. 

The objective is to develop a membrane that can be utilized as an insert in any air filtration system to seize virus-containing droplets and make them simpler to gather from the insert for evaluation. The know-how can be cheap and extensively deployable in high-risk areas, resembling hospitals, colleges, elder-care services and journey hubs.

“Illness-causing brokers such because the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that take type as bioaerosols current distinctive challenges for illness surveillance, containment, and remedy,” famous the researchers of their NSF proposal. “This work will fill a important hole in present strategies of monitoring the unfold of illness.” 

Earlier makes an attempt to design aerosol assortment techniques for viruses have had restricted success due to both the problem of retrieving intact virus particles from a strong filter floor or insufficient or low air filtration charges.

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