Alex has come down with COVID-19. After a few days at home in self isolation, breathing has become more and more difficult. She called her doctor for advice on what to do about her current worsening condition. Since Alex does not have serious enough symptoms, her doctor does not want her coming to the hospital just yet. This is a situation seen among thousands of individuals struggling with COVID-19 each day. Currently there are 1,684,633 cases of COVID-19 and over 100,000 deaths. New research suggests that more than 40% of hospitalized patients develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome or ARDS. Current methods used to treat COVID-19 patients are not effective in addressing the underlying condition in the lungs, causing a massive demand for ventilators in which the survival rate is a low 20%. Not only does mechanical ventilation have a low survival rate, it is invasive and does not fix the underlying problem seen in patients with severe symptoms. As a diverse group of young women in STEM, we have worked together to develop an innovative drug delivery system aimed at solving the underlying condition in the lungs and reducing the risk of patients needing a ventilator. Our drug delivery system is designed utilizing a nebulizer and aerosol drug delivery. Nebulizers are used to administer drugs, are readily available, and can be used at home. The aerosol delivery component is important as it is less invasive and no intubation is required. If drugs are administered to the patient before they reach the point of needing intubation, it will help prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed from a large number of patients. Our goal is to administer corticosteroids to the patient in order to decrease inflammation in the airway. The corticosteroid binds to cell receptors and decreases the proinflammatory proteins as well as activating the anti-inflammatory proteins. Once the airways are opened up, a liposome containing an antiviral drug will be delivered to the lungs. Patients with COVID-19 have immense fluid buildup in the lungs caused by inflamed alveoli. Alveoli are thin-walled air sacs in the lungs, and allow for rapid gas exchange. Type II alveolar cells secrete pulmonary surfactant, which is made up of lipids and proteins and works to lower surface tension by mixing in water molecules in the fluid lining. Surfactant prevents alveoli from collapsing, therefore decreasing the pressure and making breathing easier. The alveoli are inflamed and surfactant is not being secreted, making it harder for the patient to breathe. We designed a liposome that mimics the structure of pulmonary surfactant. Liposomes are a novel form of drug delivery. They are amphiphilic, which means they have both hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties. They are used to target specific areas for delivery of the drug in the body while remaining stable. The liposome will contain a drug found successful in treating COVID-19. Targeted drug delivery will be achieved when the liposomes come in contact with pulmonary surfactant and open up. A nebulizer will be used to deliver the corticosteroid and the liposome. First the patient will be prescribed and take a vaporized corticosteroid to open the lungs and decrease the inflammation. After the aerosolized liposomes will be delivered through the nebulizer. The patient will inhale the vaporized liposome containing the antiviral drug and it will be delivered to the pulmonary and circulatory system to treat the patient. There are no current approved drug solutions to COVID-19. Our aerosol delivery uses a nebulizer which is cost effective and accessible. A nebulizer costs between $40-60. The combination of corticosteroid and an antiviral drug inside a liposome is unprecedented, as is a liposome that mimics lung surfactant. It not only opens the airways making it easier to breathe, but also fights the COVID-19. While it is difficult to approximate the effectiveness of this drug as a treatment before hospitalization, even a 25% effectiveness rate would have already resulted in 10,165 fewer hospitalizations in the United States alone (as of April 11). This would prevent overcrowding in hospitals, limit the shortage of ventilators, decrease the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals to healthcare professionals and patients as well as provide a higher survival rate for the at-risk population.
What it does
Delivery COVID-19 drugs to the body and decrease inflammation in the lungs.
How we built it
Liposomal Drug Delivery through a nebulizer
Challenges we ran into
In the beginning we were looking into creating more and new innovative ventilators and our ideas we created were already done by other universities. So we researched and learned how to create this for non invasive ventilators(NIV) and be able to filter out air so the disease wouldn't be spread but we couldn't be sure that the disease wouldn't be spread from the NIV. So we moved more to drug delivery but started to asses the problems before a patient was put on ventilators.
Accomplishments that we are proud of
Proud that I got to work with a bunch of unique and smart individuals with so many brilliant ideas. We had a lot of ideas over the week but finalized on drug delivery as our topic!
What's next for Drug Delivery for COVID19
The next steps would be clinical trials with this drug delivery method. Some in-vivo studies may be done to see what antiviral is best to prescribe during COVID-19 or if medical doctors can recommend what antiviral they are prescribing to patients. This could help save millions before they are even put on the ventilator.