Tackling global problems with Technology

According to the WHO, 37.9 million people were living with HIV in the world, at end-2018, of which 8.1 million didn’t know they had the disease.

In 2017, the number of children and adolescents living with HIV reached 3 million, with 430,000 newly infected and 130,000 died from AIDS-related causes that year, according to UNICEF.

During 2018, 26.000 new HIV infections among children aged 0-14 years, were the results of withdrawal of treatment during pregnancy and because of breastfeeding (UNAIDS).

Image via : rleny-sagefemme.com

The control of dangerous viruses and bacteria with high replication rates is a global challenge for many scientists and companies around the world.

One of these technologies that promises to be an effective countermeasure in the fight against bacteria and viruses comes from Copper Nanotechnology.

Copper3D specializes in the use of nano-copper based additives in the 3D printing industry, aiming to "hack" the most used materials by the industry (PLA, TPU, PETg among others) adding antimicrobial properties to these polymers and 3D printed objects.

Understanding the global problem behind the HIV statistics and analyzing the role that our antimicrobial materials could have in containing the transmission of HIV virus led us think that we could develop some kind of device that acts like an interface between mother and child to prevent the spread of this virus through breastfeeding, which is one of the main routes of infection”, mentions Dr. Claudio Soto, Medical Director of Copper3D.

With this challenge in mind, the Copper3D team, whose founders are Andrés Acuña (CEO), Daniel Martínez (Director of Innovation) and Claudio Soto MD (Medical Director), got to work on a project they called: Viral Inactivation System for a Breastmilk Shield to Prevent Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, which resulted in a patent application that was submitted in March 2019.

Claudio Soto M.D. says on this respect: “The initial idea is based on some of the few available studies1, 2 that establish that copper-based additives and filters can inactivate HIV virus in a solution of breastmilk, acting specifically against the protease (essential for viral replication) where copper ions non-specifically degrade the virus phospholipidic plasmatic membrane and denaturalize its nucleic acids1; nevertheless, several issues such as toxicity levels, milk nutritional degradation, time for virus inactivation, or the optimal size/form of these filters remain unsolved”.

With this information but many doubts to be resolved, they started to work on a project with two lines of research: First, test the viral inactivation effectiveness of Copper3D PLACTIVE™ material with samples of HIV infected breastmilk.

Second, to design an object that acts as a mother-to-child interface and optimize the viral inactivation of HIV in contaminated breastmilk.

The Lab Process: PLACTIVE v/s HIV virus

The Copper3D team commissioned a laboratory study that sought to validate the HIV viral inactivation capacity of the PLACTIVE™ material. This study complied with all the requirements and protocols of the ethics committee No. 31 of August 14, 2019, at the Virology Laboratory, Hospital Clínico Universidad de Chile.

This was a proof-of-concept study, using a split-sample testing protocol3 with a simple blind, randomized and positive/negative control group. Twenty subsamples of HIV-1 (subtype B, cultivated from infectious clone NL4-3, with CXCR4 coreceptor) were treated.

Virology Laboratory at Hospital Clínico Universidad de Chile

Subsamples were randomized into A, B and Control groups. A and B samples were randomized either to a Green or a Blue 3D printed boxes with an area of surface of 40 cm2 (with and without the nano-copper additive respectively – Researchers were blinded about this information during essay execution). Samples were exposed during 15, 60, 120 and 900 seconds to the device. All samples were cultured using HIV-1 Jukat reporter cells LTR-luciferase Cells (1G5) and culture measures were performed at 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours post-treatment.

Daniel Martínez, Director of Innovation of Copper3D, mentions: The preliminary results showed a reduction of viral replication up to of 58.6% by simply exposition of the samples to the 3D printed boxes containing copper nanoparticles. Fifteen (15) seconds of exposition were enough to achieve such a reduction. These data allow us to infer that by increasing the contact surface by a factor of 10X, we could obtain much higher inactivation rates, very close to 100% (log3) and according to our calculations, most probably in less than 5 seconds.

These results are coherent with the hypothesized reduction times proposed by Borkow, et. al1. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first essay aiming to study the inactivation of HIV virus by using this new kind of polymers with antimicrobial copper nanotechnology in 3D printed objects”.

These promising results led the Copper3D team to think about the design of a device that acts as a mother-child interface with an expanded surface of contact of HIV contaminated milk with the material embedded in nano-copper during breastfeeding.

Here we enter the second part of the study.

The viral inactivation device

The underlying concept here is to rely on the proven antimicrobial capacity of nanocopper materials of Copper3D to study how they impact viral inactivation, in this case HIV, and how different designs and shapes of 3D printed devices can exponentially increase the surface of contact with the fluid (in this case breast milk) and further enhance the effectiveness of the material with nano-copper. The idea was to expand the surface of contact by a factor of around 10X, using in the design several layers and rugosities, emulating what is observed in the gastrointestinal tract.

3D Concept of the viral inactivator

Daniel Martínez, comments: Like any innovation project, this is a constantly evolving process. We have learned a lot along the way, and we will continue designing, iterating, testing, validating and learning about antimicrobial materials and devices in the future. The preliminary results obtained in the first phase of our investigation with viral inactivation on active/antimicrobial nanocomposites materials gives us a great drive to continue in that line of research. We hope in the coming months to conclude the second phase of this study. For these purposes we develop a new antimicrobial flexible TPU based material (MDflexTM), with the same nanocopper additive as PLACTIVETM, to test with new iterations of the design of this viral inactivation device with expanded surfaces of contact that we believe will be much more effective.

These new insights will allow the development of a whole new range of active medical devices and applications, with incredible capabilities to interact with the environment, eliminating dangerous bacteria and viruses and protecting patients and users around the globe. This second and final phase of the study* will be concluded in Q2 of 2020.

Shared by Jorge M. Zuniga from University of Nebraska Remember, you can post free of charge job opportunities in the AM Industry on 3D ADEPT Media or look for a job via our job board. Make sure to follow us on our social networks and subscribe to our weekly newsletter : FacebookTwitterLinkedIn & Instagram ! If you want to be featured in the next issue of our digital magazine or if you hear a story that needs to be heard, make sure to send it to contact@3dadept.com