The control of dangerous viruses and bacteria with high replication rates is a global challenge that has many scientists and companies around the world developing innovative solutions with the latest available technologies.
One of the technologies that promises to be an effective countermeasure in the fight against bacteria and viruses comes from Copper Nanotechnology.
Copper3D is the world leading company in the use of nano-copper-based additives in the 3D printing industry. The company’s goal is to “hack” the most common materials in the industry (PLA, TPU and PETG, among others) by adding antimicrobial properties to the 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,” explains 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 of the project: “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, the team started to work on a project with two lines of research. First, to test the viral inactivation effectiveness of Copper3D PLACTIVETM material with samples of HIV infected breastmilk. Second, to design an object that acts as a mother-to-child interface and optimizes the viral inactivation of HIV in contaminated breastmilk.
The Lab Process: PLACTIVE vs HIV virus
The Copper3D team commissioned a laboratory study that sought to validate the HIV viral inactivation capacity of the PLACTIVETM 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 co- receptor) were treated.
Subsamples were randomized into A and B control groups. A and B samples were randomized either to a Green or a Blue 3D printed box with a surface area 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, comments: “The preliminary results showed a reduction of viral replication up to 58.6% by simply exposing the samples to the 3D printed boxes containing copper nanoparticles. 15 seconds of exposition were enough to achieve such a reduction. This data allows 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 nano-copper 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 several layers and rugosities in the design, emulating what is observed in the gastrointestinal tract.
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 nano-composite 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 are developing 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, reaching ~100% of inactivation in less than 5 seconds.
“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.”
*The mechanical characterization testing of the prototype will be performed by collaborators at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Department of Biomechanics. Jorge Zuniga Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biomechanics, says: “Copper3D has once again disrupted the field of medical devices by creating this revolutionary device that can have a tremendous impact in reducing mother- to-child transmission of HIV. Our laboratory is fortunate to partner with Copper3D in such an impactful project.”
The Future of Antimicrobial Materials and Devices
Andrés Acuña, CEO of Copper3D, believes the following regarding the future of Active Materials and Medical Devices:
“Our purpose as a company has always been related to making a global impact through innovation in materials and nanotechnology. This line of research of active/antimicrobial medical devices and applications that opens with these studies, fills us with pride as a company. We believe that we are marking a before and after in the industry and we take this honor with a great sense of responsibility. We will continue on the path of applied innovation, always thinking of playing an important role in the most urgent global healthcare challenges, where our antimicrobial materials, intelligent 3D designs, rigorous processes of technical validations and laboratory certifications, can generate a new category of antimicrobial/active devices that can avoid infections at a global scale and save millions of lives.”
- Borkow G, Covington CY, Gautam B, Anzala O, Oyugi J, Juma M, et al. Prevention of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Breastmilk Transmission with Copper Oxide: Proof-of-Concept Study. Breastfeed Med 2011; 6:165–170.
- Karlström AR, Levine RL. Copper inhibits the protease from human immunodeficiency virus 1 by both cysteine-dependent and cysteine-independent mechanisms. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1991; 88:5552–5556.
- Design Considerations for Pivotal Clinical Investigations for Medical Devices
This article was published in collaboration with Copper3D.