Imperial College London

Can nanotechnology help us combat future pandemics?

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An image of a eight pointed diagram, showing the different uses of nanotechnology. This includes masks, medicine, disinfectant and surfaces.

A new study discusses the use of Nanotechnology to combat pandemics and infectious diseases.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a global demand for fast and effective diagnosis, treatment and prevention of transmission. 

The success of nanotechnology to counter several human viral pathogens in preclinical studies and respiratory viruses has led to a new study. An international team, led by the University of Padua and including Dr. Cecilia Mattevi from Imperial College London, have suggested that nanotechnology can offer a number of approaches to counter the current COVID-19 outbreak, infectious diseases and future pandemics.

The study offers a multidisciplinary perspective which considers the role of nanotechnology in biology, chemistry, engineering, materials science, virology and computational science. 

Prevention methods

The first application of nanotechnology focuses on methods to prevent the spread of a virus. The study suggests that nanotechnology can be used to introduce new disinfection protocols and enhance the barrier properties of personal protective equipment (PPE). For example, nanotechnology-based solutions could support the development of safer mask or air filter devices, by working to immobilise and kill the virus. 

In addition, nanotechnology could support the development of self-disinfecting surfaces which avoid contamination and therefore minimise the spread of a virus.

Some of the key Nanomaterials that could help in the fight against future pandemics are the emerging nanoflowers of WSe2, WS2, MoSe2, and MoS2. The study suggests that the stability of these materials in air, their availability as free-standing nanomaterials and their strong substrate anchoring means they could be used in aerosols, on surfaces or for face masks to detect or kill a virus. 

Therapeutic methods

Nanotechnology can support counteracting infectious diseases with effective diagnosis, treatment and mitigation of the infection spread Dr. Cecilia Mattevi

The use of nanotechnology to target COVID-19 could also be explored, through enabling the design of tools to deliver drugs and to control the immune response.

The emerging nanoflowers mentioned above have also been suggested to have a high surface area and edge reactivity. This enables them to be used in nano-medicine, to potentially kill virus pathogens, deliver molecules, and to interfere with the cellular functioning of a virus.

Diagnostics

Diagnostics are also an important part of keeping a virus under control. Nanotechnology could be applied to new simple, fast, and cost-effective nanotechnology-based systems to monitor the presence of viruses and related biomarkers. 

The study has suggested that the most popular testing platforms are smartphone apps. It highlights how nanopaper and nanochannels could offer a cost-effective alternative diagnostic in comparison to smartphone testing.

Toward Nanotechnology-Enabled Approaches against the COVID-19 Pandemic by Carsten Weiss*, Marie Carriere*, Laura Fusco, Ilaria Capua, Jose Angel Regla-Nava, Matteo Pasquali, James A. Scott, Flavia Vitale, Mehmet Altay Unal, Cecilia Mattevi, Davide Bedognetti, Arben Merkoçi, Ennio Tasciotti, Açelya Yilmazer, Yury Gogotsi, Francesco Stellacci, and Lucia Gemma Delogu* published 10 June in ACS Publications

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Kayleigh Brewer

Kayleigh Brewer
Department of Materials

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Materials, Coronavirus
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