This article was originally published on Diagnostic Imaging’s sister site, ContagionLive.
Ultrasound could be a worrying tool in the fight against COVID-19, according to a new study.
A recent study published in the Journal of Solids Mechanics and Physics found that the structure of the coronavirus may be vulnerable to ultrasound vibrations with frequencies commonly used in medical diagnostic imaging. The research was conducted by researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Although the structure of the coronavirus is well understood, little is known about its physical integrity or the make-up of its spike protein.
“We don’t know what material properties the spikes have because they are so tiny – about 10 nanometers high,” said Tomasz Wierzbicki, a professor of applied mechanics at MIT. “Even more unknown is what is inside the virus, which is empty but filled with RNA, which itself is surrounded by a protein capsid shell. Therefore, this modeling requires many assumptions. . “
Researchers behind the study used computer simulations to model the mechanical response of the virus to a range of ultrasound vibration frequencies. They then observed how the vibrations passed through the structure of the virus and used this information to determine the frequency of natural vibrations.
Through this, they estimated that the natural frequency was 100 megahertz, or 100 million cycles per second. When they exposed the virus to that vibration, they noticed that the shell and spike proteins began to enter.
As the intensity of the vibrations increased, the shell began to break down, an acoustic phenomenon known as resonance. Moreover, when they reduced the frequencies to between 25 and 50 MHz, they found that the shell of the virus was squeezing and breaking even faster. They have occurred in symbolic air and water environments similar to the densities found in body fluids.
While promising, the researchers stress that much more research is needed to determine if this can be an effective treatment.
“We have shown, under ultrasound excitation, that the coronavirus shell and spikes are activated, and that the magnitude of that vibration is very large, emitting rays that can break down certain parts of the virus. , causing visible damage to the outer shell and possibly invisible damage. to the internal RNA, “said Wierzbicki.” Hopefully our paper will start a debate across a number of topics. “
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