As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, researchers from all disciplines have been experimenting with applying their expertise to study the virus. One such group of material scientists, who typically study nanoparticle-protein interactions, has taken their knowledge to study how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, interreacts with its environment.

“I was not really aware before this pandemic that from the field of material sciences you could contribute to slowing the spread of pandemics,” said author Jordi Faraudo. “But we have experience modeling the interactions of protein with nanoparticles, which isn’t that different than how the most external thing on the virus – a protein – interacts with materials.”

The coronavirus gets its name from the unique spike-like glycoproteins that stick out from its surface and allow it to attach to materials it encounters. Malaspina and Faraudo ran molecular dynamics simulations to study how water-encased glycoproteins interact with two materials.

They choose cellulose – with high hydrogen bonding capacities – and graphite – which is strongly hydrophobic – for the study. Their results found the virus behaved differently for each material. Notably, the graphite was found to physically alter the structure of the glycoprotein.

“Our simulations indicate that this interaction of the spike with certain carbon materials has some possibilities of deforming the spike,” said Faraudo.

The researchers plan to continue simulating interactions with other types of materials, such as metals. Some metals, like silver, are known to be antibacterial and the researchers wonder if they could find an antiviral material. Such materials could ultimately be used to coat surfaces or be woven into masks to reduce the spread of coronaviruses.

Source: “Computer simulations of the interaction between SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein and different surfaces,” by David C. Malaspina and Jordi Faraudo, BioInterphases (2020). The article can be accessed at

This paper is part of the open Molecular Scale Modeling of Biological Molecules at Interfaces Collection learn more here. Submission Deadline: November 20, 2020.