Blocking viral infections with lysine-based polymeric nanostructures: a critical review
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic due to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has accelerated the search for innovative antivirals with possibly broad-spectrum efficacy. One of the possible strategies is to inhibit the replication of the virus by preventing or limiting its entry into the cells. Nanomaterials derived from lysine, an essential amino acid capable of forming homopeptides of different shapes and sizes through thermal polymerization, are an exciting antiviral option. In this review, we have critically compared the antiviral activities and mechanisms of action of lysine and its possible analogues in the form of linear, hyperbranched, dendrimer and nanoparticle polymers. The polycationic nature, as well as the structure of polylysine in its various forms, favours the electrostatic interaction with viruses by inhibiting their replication and endocytosis. In the case of lysine alone, the antiviral action is instead carried out inside the cell. The experimental results obtained so far show that the development of antivirals based on amino acids that inhibit the entry of viruses into cells represents a definite possibility for developing challenging solutions against present and future pandemics.