Wayne State awarded NSF grant to investigate how viruses navigate through the mucus barrier

A research team at Wayne State University led by Ashis Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D., associate professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, received a three-year, $326,226 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate fundamental issues related to the passage of viruses through the mucus barrier.

The project, "Transport of Virus-like Nanoparticles through Mucus," will use Mukhopadhyay's expertise in polymers and nanoscience to develop model systems, which will lead to an improved understanding of how viruses interact and transmit through the mucus. According to Mukhopadhyay, when a virus lands on the respiratory tract surface, the first line of defense it faces is the mucus layer before it reaches the underlying cell, where the actual infection occurs.

The research is of topical interest as it relates to the severe respiratory disease syndrome (SARS-Cov-2) virus, which caused the COVID-19 global pandemic that has infected more than 150 million people with more than 3 million deathsThe contribution of fields such as biotechnology, medicine and pharmaceutical science in quickly characterizing the virus and developing vaccines had been well appreciated. However, many important issues pertaining to the domains of materials and soft matter sciences are relatively less understood."

Ashis Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

The mucus barrier plays an important role in human health, and its overproduction is responsible for many diseases, including asthma, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, etc. The overarching goal of this project is to help fight diseases and develop engineered nanoparticles for more efficient drug or gene delivery.

The Wayne State University graduate and undergraduate students who will participate in this research will be trained in an interdisciplinary field that will prepare them to explore a wide range of job opportunities. The published and preliminary research that formed the basis of this grant was performed by the PI's former Ph.D. students, Indermeet Kohli and Kavindya Senanayake.

The award number for this National Science Foundation grant is CBET- 2115827.

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