Plant virus-based materials for biomedical applications: Trends and prospects
Nanomaterials composed of plant viral components are finding their way into medical technology and health care, as they offer singular properties. Precisely shaped, tailored virus nanoparticles (VNPs) with multivalent protein surfaces are efficiently loaded with functional compounds such as contrast agents and drugs, and serve as carrier templates and targeting vehicles displaying e.g. peptides and synthetic molecules. Multiple modifications enable uses including vaccination, biosensing, tissue engineering, intravital delivery and theranostics. Novel concepts exploit self-organization capacities of viral building blocks into hierarchical 2D and 3D structures, and their conversion into biocompatible, biodegradable units. High yields of VNPs and proteins can be harvested from plants after a few days so that various products have reached or are close to commercialization. The article delineates potentials and limitations of biomedical plant VNP uses, integrating perspectives of chemistry, biomaterials sciences, molecular plant virology and process engineering.