Nanotechnology vs. SARS-CoV-2: Can Nanomedicine Help Combat COVID-19?

In a very short period, the novel coronavirus has caused a very significant impact on the global health and socio-economic sector. This has caused serious damages and mortality among countries, especially those developing countries that lack resources and with a poor government response.

In light of this ongoing pandemic, this article presents the feasibility of nanotechnology in combating the prevailing problem of the COVID-19.

Pathogenicity & Structure of SARS-CoV-2

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the virus that causes the novel coronavirus disease. Coronaviruses are single-stranded RNA viruses and under this type of virus are severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that caused viral epidemics in 2002 and 2012 respectively.

The genome sequence of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) shows a different homology from the other subtypes of coronavirus and is categorized under betacoronavirus which can be most likely found in bats. The virus is composed of densely glycosylated spike proteins that are responsible for virus binding and infiltration of the host cell.

Nanotechnology-Based Treatments For Covid-19 Infections

Nanotechnology plays an important role in antiviral therapy against coronaviruses. Solutions from nanomaterials were developed to improve the delivery of biotherapeutics that break physiological boundaries.

Titanium dioxide, diphyllin nanoparticles, and silver colloid are nanomaterials that are considered to have antiviral effects and are known drug-delivery platforms for efficacy in controlling the coronavirus infection.

Although, treatments for the symptoms may be bought in physical pharmacies or through online like in pharmacy Malaysia online. These medicines do not mitigate the virus itself but lessen the effects of its symptoms.

Nano-based gene therapy

Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are considered to be an effective agent in minimizing the process of replication of RNA viruses like the coronavirus. With this regard, nanocarriers that are composed of lipids, polymers, nanohydrogels, polymer/lipid hybrid nanoparticles, silica, dendrimers, gold nanoparticles, or iron oxide nanoparticles are considered non-toxic and biocompatible materials that are promising siRNA-delivery platforms. These particular nanocarriers act by improving siRNA stability by preventing enzymatic degradation. The effectiveness of siRNA-based treatments solely depends on specific targeting of the certain viral sequence of interest and target cellular delivery of siRNA.

Polymer/lipid nanocarriers were proven to show promising results for inhalable antivirus siRNA loading and aerosol-based administration of antiviral siRNA in the lungs. Likewise, studies have shown that cholesterol-conjugated lipid particles have high potential in delivering messenger RNA (mRNA)- based coronavirus vaccine.

Nano-based immunotherapy

Nanoparticles that include liposomes, dendrimers, carbon nanotubes, polymer-based materials, as well as inorganic particles are integrated with several other antigens for the activation of the individual’s immune system. Behind this fact is the idea that nanoparticulate forms of immunomodulatory agents show exceptional outcomes in reducing immunomodulation-related toxicity and modulating the functions of immune components.

Nano-based vaccines

Nanoparticles with antiviral properties have been deliberately used as potential immunostimulatory agents for the development of vaccines.

To give a concrete example, conjugates of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and ferritin-based nanoparticles have been used to develop a vaccine against MERS-CoV. The vaccine has been shown to promote interferon production and strong T-cell response. Similarly, swine transmissible gastroenteritis virus combined with gold nanoparticles have been used for macrophage activation, prompted interferon production, and increased neutralizing antibody levels against coronavirus in vaccinated animals.

Role of Nanotechnology In Vaccine Development

The availability of conventional vaccines still faces the need for improvements due to concerns regarding toxicity, intrinsic instability in vivo, weak immunogenicity, and the need for repetitious administration. To address these concerns, nanotechnology platforms are recently incorporated into the intricate process of vaccine development.

Nanotechnology-based vaccine delivery systems have been shown to improve the immunogenicity of a vaccine antigen through the modulation of antigen delivery to the immune cells. Formulated nanocarriers of vaccines promote co-delivery of antigen and immunomodulators.

Recent studies were established regarding types of nano carrier-based vaccine delivery systems. Some of these carriers include liposomes, emulsions, polymer-based particles, as well as carbon-based nanomaterials that give way to enhance humoral and cellular immune responses through facilitating the intake of phagocytic cells, gut-associated lymphoid tissue, and mucosa-associated lymphoid tissues that causes effective and efficient recognition and presentation of antigen.

Through surface modification of nanocarriers, delivery of antigens to specific cell surface receptors is carried out and in doing so, there will be stimulation of specific and selective immune responses.

Using Nanoparticles In Covid-19 Testing

Among other methods for coronavirus detection, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) remains the primary and the most effective method of detection of SARS-CoV-2, or most commonly known as coronavirus. However, as SARS-CoV-2 rapidly spreads with an increasing number of infected individuals, it necessitates the development of accurate and rapid detection technologies that may help contain the disease.

Some of the developments in nanotechnology-based COVID-19 detection methods are as follows.

Point-of-Care Testing 

This type of nanotechnology-based testing for SARS-CoV-2 uses a kit for COVID-19 detection. A biosensor is used to perform a biochemical assay to detect the pathogen. This testing requires minimal space for storage and testing which can be performed in various locations, wide-scale analysis, and is quite flexible in meeting diverse medical needs.

Colorimetric Assay

 The colorimetric assay utilizes the optical properties of gold nanoparticles and is considered fast and easy colorimetric detection of SARS-CoV-2 that can be evaluated using the naked eye.

Microfluidic Devices

These types of devices are made from materials like poly-dimethyl sulfoxide, glass, or paper which provides an advantage in size and requires a small sample volume in a short detection time. The SARS-CoV-2 detection follows the basic principle of segregating fluid samples using capillary action and electrokinetic properties.

Magnetic Nanoparticle-Based Separation

Unlike the molecular diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 that requires time and effort, magnetic nanoparticles coated with carboxyl polymer (pcMNPs) simplify the extraction of viral RNA and sensitive detection of the coronavirus.

Suppressing The Immune Response With Nanotools

In response to various infectious and non-infectious diseases, your body releases cytokines and it is referred to as “cytokine storms”. Cytokines are immunoregulatory proteins that are secreted by human cells. It is produced typically in response to the presence of immunization or infection that may trigger inflammation, immune response, or any adverse effects. Similarly, cytokine storms cascade to immune responses that may lead to serious responses.

In the context of COVID-19, reports suggest that patient that acquired the virus suffered from organ failure which is related to the overproduction cytokine and prolonged immune response

In light of this, nanomaterials have been clinically used to limit the production of cytokines, reduce it to an optimum level, and significantly lower the immune response of the person.

Nanotools are purposely designed and were utilized to deliver immunosuppressants that target cells and organs which leads to drug dose reduction and distribution to non-target tissues, lessening the adverse effects.

Perspectives And Conclusions

Although global efforts are undertaken to battle the novel coronavirus, caused by SARS-CoV-2, some aspects of it remain unanswered. Various research should still be conducted to give light to the virus’ epidemiology, etiology, and pathogenesis mechanism. This is to immediately develop treatments and diagnostics as well as other measures to address the problem brought by the virus.


Journal Reference:

Bhat, E. A. (2021, February 25). SARS-CoV-2: Insight in genome structure, pathogenesis and viral receptor binding analysis – An updated review. PubMed.

Dutta, S. S., PhD. (2021, May 17). Nanotechnology and COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment. News-Medical.Net. –

Nanotechnology and vaccine development. (2014, October 1). ScienceDirect.

Gupta, R. (2020). Nanotechnology-Based Approaches for the Detection of SARS-CoV-2. Frontiers.

Modulating the immune system through nanotechnology. (2017). US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

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