A new scientific report reviews the role nanotechnology plays in the ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus, examining its role in diagnosing and curing the highly-contagious COVID-19.
An international team of researchers - including those from the Zanjan University of Medical Sciences in Iran and the Erciyes University in Turkey - has published their report last March 8. They detail their findings in the article titled "Nanotechnology against the novel coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2): diagnosis, treatment, therapy, and future perspectives," appearing in the journal Future Medicine.
Putting the World Into a Halt
In the new medical review, the authors observed and summarized the use of various advances and materials in nanotechnology - including specially-fabricated polymers and inorganic self-assembling materials, peptide-based nanomaterials, and even hybrid constructs - in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.
COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has already infected more than 118 million people worldwide, causing 2.6 million deaths. Because of its nature as a highly-contagious disease, efforts to slow down the spread of the virus have led to the closure of offices, as well as government-imposed travel restrictions, as well as local lockdown and isolation measures - leading to economic upheaval in several parts of the world.
The virus that causes COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China, as early as December 19, 2019. A positive-stranded RNA betacoronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has been identified to be under the Nidovirales order, Cornidovirineae suborder, and the family of Coronaviridae - the family of enveloped, positive-stranded RNA viruses.
As a heterogenous disease, COVID-19 has multiple clinical symptoms that make it more challenging for healthcare professionals to accurately identifying its presence and treating patients even more difficult.
Advancing Nanotechnology For Better Healthcare
Among the countless methods employed by the scientific community, nanotechnology has found varying levels of success among the different facets of combatting the disease. From the development of rapid diagnostic tools, real-time contact tracing services, surface disinfecting technologies, and the delivery of revolutionary mRNA vaccines into the human body, nanotechnology approaches have helped curb the disease's effects.
Working in the nanoscale, these materials range from a tenth to a hundredth of a micrometer in size, often close to the coronavirus, which has been observed to be between 80 to 120 nanometers wide. With the small size of these nanomaterials, the high surface-to-volume ratio makes these materials excellent cargo-delivery moieties, either for drug or antibody delivery, and are also optimal for technologies that rely on observing the analyte-sensor interaction, which in turn allows for fast and accurate detection of the virus, making COVID-19 diagnosis faster.
Reviewers of nanotechnology approaches included the fabrication of polymeric nanoparticles - specially made thanks to advancements in materials science - that have rapid and higher mucous penetration capabilities. They also assessed the potential of biodegradable, non-toxic, and stable nanoparticles - safe, biocompatible, and environmentally-friendly materials - that are to be used in the patient's lung during treatment.
Furthermore, the future of inoculation seems to rest with the upcoming nanovaccines, where nanomaterials act as delivery agents of antigens into the host body. By delivering the vaccines on this small scale, it is more precise and targeted and, therefore, more effective. For example, the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines from Moderna and the BioNTech-Pfizer collaboration have their inoculating agents encapsulated in positively-charged lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) that allow them to be resistant to RNase-mediated degradation once inside the body.
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