Texas Tech University professor Ted Reid is leading a new selenium technology research effort, which he hopes will give rise to a world where viral infections are no longer a risk, the Daily Toreador reports.
Selenium is a nonmetal chemical element that sits below oxygen and has a similar composition to oxygen, Reid explains to the same publication. This element’s unique property is that it can donate electrons to oxygen, which means “it can sit there and generate super oxides, which block bacteria from attaching to the bond,” he said.
Reid began the research in 1994, when another researcher at Tech told him about the properties of selenium. The problem Reid was faced with was the fact that bacteria can bond to any device attached to the human body. During his research, he realized selenium could be attached to medical devices to prevent bacteria from reaching the devices. This would solve problems in numerous cases, such as breast implants for women with breast cancer. “The women thought it was the silicone in the implant that was causing problems, but it wasn’t. The implants were a place that the bacteria could bond. They’re very resistant and can cause serious complications,” he said.
An ophthalmology professor, Reid began first tested the use of selenium to kill bacteria in contact lenses. This was a difficult area, since bacteria would bind to contacts and create a biofilm that could eat through the cornea of the eye in a day. “We started off to find ways that we could attach selenium to contact lenses so it’s permanently connected and can stop the bacteria growth,” he told the Daily Toreador.
The market doesn’t yet have a product to protect those with contact lenses, but there is a product, which was tested on 120 different patients, that attaches to teeth to stop bacteria growth and plaque formation.
“On one side they put the selenium and on the other side they just put a normal sealant,” Reid explained. “After a year they tested both sides of the patient’s teeth and recorded that there was no plaque formation on the selenium side.”
For the near future, Reid and his fellow researchers are designing drugs that target viruses in the blood stream to attack. His biggest obstacle in this task is to find people who are receptive to this research, since people don’t understand that selenium has both good and bad properties. “We do need selenium in our bodies,” he said. “It’s just if you have too much it becomes a bad thing. That’s the same with everything though. The opposite of evil is not good but evil. Good is more in the middle because too much and too little of something are both bad.”
Attacking viruses in the blood with selenium technology is a way to mimic the mechanism the body uses to combate bacteria, Reid explains. This technology also decreases the probability that bacteria will become resistant to it because it is an ancient process and is still working today.
“When we make our drugs, even though it’s not probable that the bacteria will mutate, it’s possible, so we do take other steps to ensure it won’t,” he said. “With our drugs, we pick three different specific proteins that the bacteria need. That means the bacteria would need to mutate three different proteins and statistically that’s just not probable.”
Reid and his team are now researching how to attach the selenium to catheters, use the technology to better filter water and how to target and attack the AIDS virus and cancerous tumors. According to the Selenium Ltd. Website http://www.selenbio.com, the technology research is now receiving grants to further the applications and findings discovered by Reid and his team. According to Kris Looney, President of Selenium, the team is now researching a way to use these selenium bonds to better filter water. “Results from our Phase One Report show selenium’s membrane reduced micro-pollutants and showed an 85 percent improvement in water quality,” he said. “These improvements increase energy efficiency and extend the life and functionality of the filters.”
This new water filtration technology will have a large effect on society and the way the water reclamation industry works, Thomas Harlan, CEO of Selenium Ltd., said. He recognizes, however, that the team faces unique challenges while researching, he said, because they have to be highly selective to ensure the quality of their findings. “This new technology,” he said, “will provide an economical and safe solution to delivering clean water to more people.”