His team is currently developing methods to make cancer cells attract gold nanoparticles. Infrared light them heats up the particles, destroying the cancer cells. Healthy cells wouldn't attract the nanoparticles and would not be affected. To magnify the heating effect, Webster increased the surface area of the gold nanoparticles by shaping them as stars. He dubbed them gold nanostars.
"The star has a lot more surface area, so it can heat up much faster than a sphere can," Webster said in the release. "And that greater surface area allows it to attack more viruses once they adsorb to the particles."
At his lab, he and his students are testing the nanostars on synthetic analogs that mimic viruses' structures. He said they've "realized the potential," and although he's hopeful, he doesn't want to create false expectations, noting that using nanotechnology to fight the Ebola virus is still in its early days.
"There is obviously such a huge need right now for ways to treat Ebola and other viruses, and it's up to us to study and look at new and creative ways that traditional medicine really can't."