Stellenbosch University hopes new med-tech can assist coronavirus fight

Stellenbosch University (SU) have announced that they are currently working on a project to develop human therapeutic proteins that could assist ailing coronavirus patients. 

Having teamed up with AzarGen Biotechnologies, a med-tech company focused on developing human therapeutic proteins, the university is conducting research and developing a synthetic pharmaceutical to be tested as a support agent for the treatment of Acute/Adult Respiratory Disease Syndrome (ARDS). The buzz emanating from the Western Cape tertiary institution of learning is extremely optimistic.

ARDS has been touted as one of the primary concerns medical practitioners are facing, as coronavirus-positive patients who also have the underlying illness are at a greater risk of becoming critically ill. 

SynSurf ‘strengthens poorly functioning lungs’ 

The “surfactant” (a compound that lowers the surface tension between two liquids) is called SynSurf, and it was initially developed for the treatment of neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome (nRDS), a condition where some premature babies struggle to breathe due to collapsed lung sacs, as well as treatment for acute lung injury in adults.

Members of SU’s medicine and health faculty believe the it could be used to assist in the fight against coronavirus. 

“Other than replacing and supporting either a deficiency in lung surfactant, as found in premature new-borns, SynSurf has the potential to strengthen poorly functioning lung surfactant, such as found in severe adult acute lung injury related to serious COVID-19 and other bacterial infections,” said SU’s Professor Johan Smith.

“The initial aim changed somewhat when the researchers developed an improved formulation which could compete with commercially available surfactants,” said Smith.

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Author: Dan Meyer

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