N.C. State researchers: Inhalable powder can prevent infection

Raleigh-based North Carolina State University researchers developed an inhalable powder that can help protect a person's lungs and airways from viral infections.

The powder, called Spherical Hydrogel Inhalation for Enhanced Lung Defense, or SHIELD, reinforces the body's mucosal layer, reducing vulnerability to infection, according to a Feb. 9 news release from the university. The bioadhesive is made of microparticles of gelatin and poly grafted with a non-toxic ester. When in a moist environment such as the respiratory tract, the microparticles swell and adhere to the mucosal layer, increasing the stickiness of the mucus.

"The idea behind this work is simple — viruses have to penetrate the mucus in order to reach and infect the cells, so we've created an inhalable bioadhesive that combines with your own mucus to prevent viruses from getting into your lung cells," Ke Cheng, PhD, a corresponding author of the study, said in the release. "Mucus is the body's natural hydrogel barrier; we are just enhancing that barrier."

The powder is most effective in the first eight hours after inhalation. The microparticles biodegrade over 48 hours and clear from the body. It has been effective in both mouse and non-human primate models over a 24-hour period and can be taken repeatedly without affecting normal lung function, the release said.

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