It sounds like science fiction.
A substance that suffocates coronaviruses in less than a minute and whose electrokinetic superpowers suffocate the life of COVID-19 like Thanos that displaces the life of Loki?
It’s real, says Chandan Sen, the director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. And with novel coronavirus infections reaching 4 million as of May 10, there is enticing potential for the future of personal protective equipment.
He and a team of IU researchers discovered earlier this year that the novel coronavirus relies on electrostatic forces to make it infectious. So if they could find some metaphorical kryptonite that could interfere with these forces …
The possibilities were electrifying.
Then, in a study published May 15 on ChemRxiv, a website that hosts pre-release chemistry research, Sen and his team told the world: They had done it. They had found that an electrochemical fabric made of polyester fabric, printed with alternating circular metal dots made of elemental silver and zinc metals, dizzyed the electrokinetic properties of the virus and made it impossible to infect within a minute.
Sen and his team had spent the past six years researching possible uses for the fabric, which is currently used as an antimicrobial wound dressing due to its ability to kill bacteria. It was the next logical step to see if it was effective against coronaviruses as well.
The fabric works like a signal jammer: it uses embedded micro-cell batteries to wirelessly generate a weak electrical field when exposed to moisture, which disrupts the electrostatic forces viruses need to spread infections. It is not harmful to humans, but it is deadly to the ability of bacteria and viruses to infect.
The research is so promising for the future of personal protective equipment, Sen says, because when health care workers remove their face masks, which have little or no ability to kill viruses, the coronavirus can stay outside and people can still spread infections . A mask that kills the novel coronavirus on contact would not pose such a risk.
The power generation technology used in the tissue, called V. Dox Technology, is patented and FDA cleared by Vomaris Innovations Inc. of Arizona, a regenerative medicine company that focuses on wound care using bioelectrical technology.
Paul Foster, CEO of Vomaris Innovations, says the company hopes to have the first products in the hands of clinicians soon.
“We hope that these findings will help Vomaris obtain FDA approval for the emergency and that we can use this substance on a large scale in the fight against COVID-19 to ultimately save lives,” said Sen.