COVID-19 – Advancing ultrasound with microbubble (USMB) for the modulation of viral entry and production in COVID-19

Antonescu, Costin | $50,000

Ontario Ryerson University 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to COVID-19, a disease that has rapidly become a global pandemic, with >2M individuals infected and >125,000 deaths from the disease worldwide (as of April 15th, 2020). The significant health, economic and social cost and burden of this disease urgently requires new therapies that can limit the spread of infection in affected individuals, limit the spread of infection between individuals, and treat patients that exhibit severe disease symptoms.

Ultrasound in combination with microbubbles is an important treatment strategy that holds great promise for the treatment of COVID-19. This strategy involves the systemic administration of 1-5 µm microbubbles and the targeted treatment with ultrasound, which can be focused to a small volume within a patient. The combined effect of the ultrasound with microbubbles (USMB) has highly localized effects on nearby tissues, which may allow for targeted and localized suppression of viral infection or enhanced delivery of antiviral drugs.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus infects cells of the throat and then of the respiratory tract (lungs), leading to adverse effects. There are no current treatments that can effectively impede SARS-CoV-2 cellular entry or replication. The partnership of researchers led by Dr. Antonescu from Ryerson University and leading medical ultrasound engineering firm MD Precision Inc aims to accomplish two things: (1) obtain an improved understanding of the fundamental effect of USMB on cells of the respiratory tract, including how this triggers uptake of drug-like molecules or modulates virus entry and replication, and (2) define the ultrasound parameters that triggers these effects, in order to allow engineering of ultrasound transducers for use if preclinical and eventually clinical settings. While this research aims to understand the fundamental properties of how USMB modulates cell responses to viruses, it will have important applications to the further development of COVID‑19 treatments.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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