Combination of In Situ Lcn2 pRNA-RNAi Nanotherapeutics and iNSC Transplantation Ameliorates Experimental SCI in Mice
Braga Alice, Sara Bandiera, Jeroen Verheyen, Regan Hamel, Carola Rutigliani, Frank Edenhofer, Jayden Aaron Smith, Stefano Pluchino
Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a debilitating neurological condition characterized by different cellular and molecular mechanisms that interplay in exacerbating the progression of the pathology. No fully restorative therapies are yet available, and it is thus becoming recognized that combinatorial approaches aimed at addressing different aspects of SCI will likely results in greater functional outcomes. Here we employed packaging RNA-mediated RNA interference (pRNA-RNAi) nanotherapeutics to downregulate in situ the expression of lipocalin 2 (Lcn2), a known mediator of neuroinflammation and autocrine mediator of reactive astrogliosis, and to create a more amenable niche for the subsequent transplantation of induced neural stem cells (iNSCs). To our knowledge, this is the first approach that takes advantage of the modular and multifunctional pRNA three-way junction platform in the SCI niche, while also exploiting the therapeutic potential of immune-compatible and feasible iNSC transplants. We show the combination of such treatments in a mouse model of contusion thoracic SCI leads to significant improvement of locomotor function, albeit not better than single pRNA-RNAi treatment, and results in synergistic histopathological effects, such as reduction of glial scar volume, diminished pro-inflammatory response, and promotion of neuronal survival. Our results provide evidence for a novel combinatorial approach for treating SCI.