Nanotechnology rescues spinal cord tissue

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After a spinal cord injury, immune cells infiltrate the damaged area and clear the debris to initiate the regeneration. Due to a damaged blood-brain barrier, they are able to invade the spinal cord lesion site. But our spinal cord tissue is too sensitive for this kind of harsh cleaning up. During this process, the immune cells cause also death of neurons, damage of myelin, and will ultimately increase the size of the initial damage. So, the difficulty is that the immune system is healing and damaging the spinal cord tissue at the same time.

Dr. Lonnie Shea`s research group from the University of Michigan demonstrated in a model of spinal cord injury that injecting a certain kind of nanoparticles prevents the immune system from overreacting and therefore diminishes the devastating effect of spinal cord injuries.

Nanoparticles to the rescue
These nanoparticles consist of a biomaterial, approved by regulatory authorities. The group of scientists designed nanoparticles that are gobbed by the immune cells and redirects them away from the injury site. The beauty of this particles is that there is no drug attached. The nanoparticles reprogram the immune cells with their physical characteristics. The fact that no pharmaceutical drug is involved should avoid any undesired side effects.

Spectacular effects
Since fewer cells reach the injury site, there is less inflammation and tissue destruction. The immune cells that manage to reach the injury are less inflammatory and allow for a better regeneration. The tissue scarring is diminished, there is better myelination and overall the locomotion is drastically improved.

The group led by Dr. Lonnie Shea points out that this is a promising strategy. They will continue to work on the concept in order to develop an “immediate intravenous administration within the standard of therapy guidelines to limit secondary damage.” We stick to it!

This study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Source:“Intravascular innate immune cells reprogrammed via intravenous nanoparticles to promote functional recovery after spinal cord injury” by Park J, Zhang Y, Saito E, Gurczynski SJ, Moore BB, Cummings BJ, Anderson AJ, Shea LD. Published in July 2019 in the journal PNAS.