In an ongoing effort to mirror the ability of biological tissues to respond rapidly and appropriately to changing environments, scientists from the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine have synthesized a single, multifunctional polymer material that can decontaminate both biological and chemical toxins. They described the findings recently in Biomaterials.
“Our lab applies biological principles to create materials that can do many things, just like our skin protects us from both rain and sun,” said senior investigator Alan Russell, Ph.D., University Professor of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director, McGowan Institute, a joint effort of the university and UPMC. “Typically, labs engineer products that are designed to serve only one narrow function.”
Those conventional approaches might not provide the best responses for weapons of mass destruction, which could be biological, such as smallpox virus, or chemical, such as the nerve agent sarin, he noted. Terrorists aren’t going to announce what kind of threat they unleash in an attack.
“That uncertainty calls for a single broad-spectrum decontamination material that can rapidly neutralize both kinds of threats and is easily delivered or administered, and it must not damage the environment where it is applied,” Dr. Russell said. “Much work has gone into developing ways to thwart either germ or chemical weapons, and now we’re combining some of them into one countermeasure.”