January 13, 2023
Journal Article

Editorial: Nanotechnology for Natural Products


Humans around the globe have lived through an unprecedented time. The emergence and rapid spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have resulted in the loss of millions of lives, and this number is still climbing every day and hour. As a consequence, there have been drastic changes over the past two years in how we live, communicate, and work, some of which may have changed forever: remote conferencing has become a new norm for businesses, schools, and academia; work-from-home and hybrid working is now more than just acceptable in many industries; most importantly, COVID-19 has raised global awareness of infectious diseases and pandemic responses to an exceptional level. Certainly, COVID-19 is not the only disease that is causing human suffering at this moment. Other highly contagious and lethal viruses, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Ebola, and the recent addition to the list, Monkeypox, pose extraordinary challenges to modern civilizations. On the other hand, non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer, are still claiming the majority of deaths on a global level (World Health Organization, 2020). Before the availability of synthetic drugs, civilizations worldwide relied on natural products extracted from the environment and various organisms for healthcare. Natural products and their derivatives continue to be critical components in the drug library available today. Indeed, almost a quarter of the new drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1981 are natural products, botanical mixtures, or their derivatives (Newman and Cragg, 2020). Recent developments in analytical characterization, genome mining, and engineering have further increased interest in drug discovery from the pool of natural products (Atanasov et al., 2021). This Research Topic celebrates a collection of studies at the intersection of natural product research and nanotechnological advances. As a successor and extension of the Research Topic in “Nanotechnology in Traditional Medicines and Natural Products” published last year (Zhang et al., 2021), the present collection focused more on recent developments in employing the synthesis and characterization of nanostructures for the delivery of functional natural products. Specifically, the use of carrier nanostructures to conjugate or encapsulate therapeutically active natural products with carrier nanostructures could enable their robust, targeted delivery tailored to either tackle a specific disease or unlock a drug administration pathway. Over the last decade, nanostructures such as liposomes (Pattni et al., 2015) and lipid nanoparticles (Hou et al., 2021) have been developed as versatile platforms for the inclusion and delivery of a wide range of therapeutical compounds; a significant advance in this aspect is the stabilization of mRNA strands for COVID-19 vaccination recently produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna (Tenchov et al., 2021). Such engineered nanomaterials are now widely used in the development of new drugs, while regulatory forces, such as the US FDA, remain cautious with the evaluation of each product on a case-by-case basis (Wang and Grainger, 2022). In this collection, Zeng et al. provided a timely review of natural products conjugated to and contained within nanomaterials for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Natural products that are potentially useful in the mitigation of this disease, such as chloroquine and curcumin, supported in nanocarrier systems, have been discussed in detail. More broadly, Cheng et al. comprehensively reviewed the use of liposomes as a nanocarrier for natural products. This article provides a summary of natural product compounds and extracts used to form liposomal structures. Readers can further enjoy the practical aspects of these engineered drugs for the treatment of specific diseases as well as insights into future directions in this field.

Published: January 13, 2023


Du J., T. Chen, F. Liu, S. Wang, J. Zhang, and R. Zhang. 2022. Editorial: Nanotechnology for Natural Products. Frontiers in Chemistry 10. PNNL-ACT-SA-10693. doi:10.3389/fchem.2022.1069892

Research topics