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As Ebola death toll rises, scientists work on nanotech cure

Sharon Gaudin | Aug. 21, 2014
Scientists at Northeastern University are using nanotechnology to find an effective treatment for the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 1,200 people, and sickened even more.

The work showed a threefold increase in killing cancer cells and a "substantial," though not complete, tumor reduction within 30 days.

Scientists at Northeastern are hoping this same kind of treatment can also target and kill the Ebola virus.

To make the heat more effective, Webster and his colleagues decided that heating up a larger surface would be even more damaging to the virus cells. That led them to create a nano-structure larger than a typical nanoparticle, according to Northeastern.

The researchers built a nanostar, which has more surface area so it can conduct more heat.

"The star ... can heat up much faster than a sphere can," Webster said. "And that greater surface area allows it to attack more viruses once they absorb into the particles."

Webster noted that his team also is researching ways to use nanoparticles that would act like a virus decoy. Those nanoparticles would attract the virus and attack them instead of healthy human cells.

Webster said he is probably five to 10 years away from having a nano-based treatment for Ebola. However, he noted that other labs are working on similar nanotech treatments, increasing the odds of creating a cure sooner.


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