Nanotechnology-Enabled Approaches against the COVID-19 Pandemic | Part 2: Controlling Cytokine Storms

One of the key features of why SARS-CoV-2 is so effective is that it triggers a cytokine storm within the body and this process is known as cytokine release syndrome. Cytokines are small proteins that are released by our cells and they enable cells to communicate with each other, including communicating with our immune systems to trigger a response against infections. However, when some viruses in the body are present, the release of these proteins can go into overdrive, and this immune response is known as a cytokine storm.

Cytokine storms are only activated by some viruses, but they are very harmful to the patient, and can even lead to organ failure and death. For SARS-CoV-2, this occurs when it enters the lungs.

The entering of the lungs causes a cytokine storm and the immune cells move to the area where the virus is located. This causes localized inflammation, but if the cytokines continue to be released, the presence of more and more immune cells (of uncontrolled levels) leads to hyperinflammation, which is when it becomes serious. Suppressing and controlling the cytokine storm is a key therapeutic area for COVID-19 and the use of nanomaterials in this area offers some new options for clinical scientists to try.

The main way in which nanomaterials could be used to control and supress the cytokine storm is by adjusting the immune response that occurs in the presence of the virus. A range of nanomaterials can be used within immunosuppressant therapies to provide an enhanced selectivity and specificity towards the immune cells. Some porous nanocarbon structures have also shown promise, as the cytokines get absorbed into the porous network, reducing the number of cytokines in a localized area.

Nanocarrier materials can also be used to encapsulate some of the immunosuppressant drugs that are poorly soluble, meaning that they can be delivered to the target of interest with a much greater effectiveness. The ability to deliver the correct immunosuppressant drugs effectively will enable the cytokine storm to be supressed before it gets too dangerous and overwhelming for the patient, and could aid in saving lives that might otherwise be lost to these overdrive immune responses.

Check the first article of the series here

Read the full article on ACS Nano

Date Published:

August 25, 2020

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