Nanoscience versus Viruses: The SARS-CoV-2 Case

The current health crisis caused by the spread of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has grounded humanity in unprecedented ways. Our stores of knowledge and laboratories of creation were shuttered, and we experienced the reality of ‘lockdown’. As researchers sitting in their homes hiding from this invisible invader and watching helplessly its destruction of innocent lives, we are confronted with a mixture of emotions: anger at our failure as researchers to plan better ahead, sadness for those who lost loved ones, empathy for those on the front lines courageously answering the call to duty, protective care of the elderly, to mention a few. We are overwhelmed by the disruption this has caused in our lives and the uncertainties it brought about the course of events and the future. However, one thing is certain and it is unmistakably felt by all of us: We must be better prepared for future virus attacks. 

Comparison of viruses as natural nanocarriers with synthetic nanocarriers.

In our current review, 

Advanced Functional Materials 2022, 2107826. (DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202107826)

we wish to focus on the potential of nanoscience in order to address different challenges in the treatment, prevention, and diagnosis of viruses in general and using
SARS-CoV-2 as a model example. Specifically, we highlight and critically discuss how nanoscience can solve various timely problems in the treatment, prevention, and diagnosis of viruses like SARS-CoV-2: 

  1. Synthesis of novel drugs and vaccines based on nanocarriers with enhanced efficiency and reduced side-effects for the treatment of the current pandemic and the prevention of future virus attacks; 
  2. Design of protective equipment based on nanoparticles, such as medical face masks and outfits; 
  3. Development of nanobiosensors for early detection of infections in a maximally efficient way. 

Left: Therapy of viral infections with the use of nanocarrier-based drug delivery platforms administered via different ways. Right: Viral infections with lung uptake as the main route of distribution. Depending on the particle size, pathogens penetrate the respiratory tract to different depths. For efficient local control of e.g., SARS-CoV-2, therapeutics contained in sufficiently small delivery vehicles must be able to penetrate into the infected area with high precision.

All in all, the current strategies in nanoscience that enable an improved treatment, prevention, and diagnosis of viruses in general and SARS-CoV-2, in particular, are presented and their practical advantages and disadvantages are critical discussed. Our intention is to increase the future impact of nanoscience by addressing different challenges arising from the spread of viruses and to ensure the successful transfer of the created scientific knowledge to industrial real-world applications to improve society at large.