A synthetic gel based on animal mucus against communicable diseases such as Herpes and HIV. It is the product of research by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, conducted in collaboration with Sonia Visentin and Cosmin Stefan Butnarasu of the Department of Molecular Biotechnology and Health Sciences of the University of Turin.
The gel, which derives from mucin, the main glycoprotein of the mucus that covers all the humid surfaces of our organism, would be able to reduce the virulence of the HIV-1 virus by 70% and that of HSV by 80%. 2.
Mucin molecules can bind and form a three-dimensional gel capable of trapping viral particles, subsequently eliminating them through the natural replacement of mucus.
The results were published September 14 in Advanced Science. In addition to KTH and UniTo, researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Karolinska Institutet (KI) also contributed to the project.
AIDS, 1.5 million cases in 2021
From an application point of view, the gel could help many people to manage greater control over their sexual activity, safeguarding their health and exposing themselves to fewer risks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1 million sexually transmitted diseases are acquired worldwide every day, and most of them are asymptomatic.
AIDS, the disease caused by HIV, remains a global epidemic to date, counting more than 1.5 million cases in 2021 alone.
“The gel developed – says Hongji Yan, researcher at KTH and leader of the project – replicates the self-regeneration function, a fundamental property of the material that allows the lubrication and prophylaxis of mucus against infections. The reason why the synthetic gel is so effective in reducing the virulence of HIV and HSV, without the risk of side effects or development of resistance as with other antiviral compounds, comes from the natural complexity of the mucins. “
The researcher continues: “These properties would be difficult to obtain with a type of polymer other than mucins. Furthermore, the mucins used to synthesize the gel also reduce the activation of immune cells, which, when activated, facilitate replication and diffusion. HIV “.
“We have been dealing with mucins in the pharmaceutical sector for some time in our UniTo laboratories. The study, conducted in collaboration with KTH researchers, is further proof of the potential that mucins can have in the biomedical field – adds Sonia Visentin, professor at the UniTo Department of Molecular Biotechnology and Health Sciences “.