Don’t like wearing masks? Try this bio-designed chewing gum instead

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Dentists to the rescue? Researchers at an American dental school are preparing the first human trial of an experimental chewing gum that ‘captures’ SARS-CoV-2 particles in saliva.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.

The chewing gum uses an ACE2 protein that comes from engineered hydroponic lettuce. ACE2 proteins are on the surface of many cells and they serve as a gateway for the coronavirus to infect us.

In the experimental chewing gum, the ACE2 proteins essentially lure and trap the virus.

Test tube data promising

According to an explanation from the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in test-tube experiments with saliva from individuals infected with the Delta or Omicron variants, the virus particles adhered to the ACE2 ‘receptors’ in the chewing gum and the viral load. dropped to undetectable levels.

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Before and after chewing: The viral load drops to almost nothing. Photo: Penn . Dental School

“SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the salivary glands, and we know that when someone who is infected sneezes, coughs or speaks, some of that virus can be expelled and reach others,” said Henry Daniell, Vice President and WD Miller Professor in the Department of Basic and Translational Sciences in the dental school.

“This chewing gum offers the ability to neutralize the virus in the saliva, giving us an easy way to potentially reduce a source of disease transmission.”

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The human trials

The clinical trial is a simple experiment: COVID-19 patients chew four ACE2 gum tablets every day for four days and their saliva is analyzed for viral load.

If the saliva is virtually free of the virus, as in the test-tube experiments, the chewing gum could be used as a cheap and convenient tool to suppress the transmission of problematic variants.

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According to a research paper, a second experimental chewing gum made with bean powder instead of lettuce cells “captures not only SARS-CoV-2 particles in lab experiments, but also strains of flu and other coronaviruses that cause the common cold.”

The researchers say there is potential for other containment of oral viruses such as human papilloma virus and herpes virus (the dreaded cold sores).