Researchers want to filter and inactivate airborne pathogens using tissue

Press release /

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology are working on developing a tissue that can be used to filter and inactivate airborne pathogens. On November 11, 2021, the project team from Leipzig received a funding commitment from the Else Kröner-Fresenius Stiftung (EKFS) for the "Aerocatch" project.

Previous respirators can retain, reduce or inactivate viruses and bacteria. However, not all functionalities are possible at the same time and, due to the pore size, make breathing significantly more difficult. In the "Aerocatch" project, the team led by PD Dr. Thomas Grunwald, Dr. David M. Smith and PD Dr. Sebastian Ulbert of the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI aims to develop a novel tissue that binds and simultaneously kills viruses, bacteria and fungal spores.

The basic structure is formed by the genetic substance DNA, which naturally has an antimicrobial effect. These DNA networks are to be additionally optimized by incorporating pathogen-binding molecules, such as biopolymers. The main application of this technology is as a filter material for respirators or room filtration systems.

The aim is to bind the pathogens on the surface of the tissue and drastically reduce their infectivity. This should help to contain the spread of the disease. The researchers want to develop a tissue-like filter that can be used to filter and inactivate airborne pathogens.

The two-year project is being funded by the Else Kröner-Fresenius Stiftung with a total of 349,000 euros. The foundation had announced an ideas competition in 2021 to stimulate the development of new protective measures against droplet infections and received more than 50 project proposals. "Aerocatch" is one of four projects that was selected for funding. The foundation is providing a total of 1.3 million euros to support the four winning projects. 

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"Ideas against pandemics" Announcement of the winning projects by the Else Kröner-Fresenius Stiftung. Presentation of the "Aerocatch" project from minute 29:40. (in German only)