Image courtesy of Chandan Sen
It sounds like science fiction.
A fabric that smothers coronaviruses in less than a minute, its electrokinetic superpowers choking the life out of COVID-19 like Thanos squeezing the life out of Loki?
It’s real, says Chandan Sen, the director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. And, with the number of novel coronavirus infections sitting at 4 million as of May 10, it holds tantalizing 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 for its ability to infect. So if they could find a metaphorical kryptonite that could disrupt those forces…
The possibilities were electrifying.
Then, in a study published May 15 in ChemRxiv, a site that houses chemistry research prior to publication, Sen and his team told the world: They’d done it. They’d discovered that an electroceutical fabric made of polyester fabric printed with alternating circular metal dots of elemental silver and zinc metals sent the virus’s electrokinetic properties into a tizzy, stripping it of its ability to infect within one minute.
Sen and his team had been investigating potential uses for the fabric, which is currently used as an antimicrobial wound dressing due to its bacteria-killing prowess, for the past six years. It was the logical next step to determine if it was also effective against coronaviruses.
The fabric works like a signal jammer: It wirelessly generates a weak electric field using embedded microcell batteries when exposed to moisture that disrupts the electrostatic forces viruses require to spread infection. It’s not harmful to humans, but it’s deadly for the infectious capabilities of bacteria and viruses.
The research is so promising for the future of personal protective equipment, Sen says, because when healthcare workers remove their facemasks, which have little or no ability to kill viruses, the coronavirus can remain on the outside and people can still spread infection. A mask that kills the novel coronavirus on contact would pose no such risk.
The electricity-generating technology used in the fabric, called V.Dox Technology, is patented by Arizona-based Vomaris Innovations Inc., a regenerative medicine company focused on wound care via bioelectric technology, and is FDA cleared.
Vomaris Innovations board chairman Paul Foster says the company hopes to have the first products in the hands of clinicians soon.
“Our hope is that these findings will help Vomaris receive FDA Emergency Use Authorization and that we can utilize this fabric widely in the fight against COVID-19, ultimately saving lives,” Sen says.