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Nanoparticle injections may help treat spinal cord injuries

A new study in mice at the University of Michigan shows how nanoparticle treatments could help minimize the damage from spinal cord injuries.

When the body is subjected to trauma, immune cells flood the damaged area to kickstart the healing process. Under normal circumstances, the neurons of the brain and spine are isolated from the peripheral immune response. Spinal cord injuries breach this isolation and let in immune cells, resulting in inflammation around the sensitive neural tissue. This inflammation kills neurons and leads to scarring that prevents regeneration, ultimately leading to loss of function below the site of injury.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed nanoparticles designed to mitigate the damage caused by spinal cord injuries by redirecting immune activity and reducing inflammation while stimulating regeneration. During their study, these nanoparticles were injected intravenously into mice and became embedded within immune cells, reprogramming them to have altered distribution and function.

This reprogramming resulted in a four-fold reduction of immune cells at the site of injury, decreasing the expression of inflammation stimulating genes while increasing the expression of anti-inflammatory and regeneration-boosting genetic factors. The amount of scarring was decreased by a factor of three, ultimately resulting in treated mice outperforming the untreated mice when tested for motor function.

The applications for this technology are broad, and the researchers hope that the development of these nanoparticles can lead to new treatments, not only for spinal cord injuries but also for inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Their work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Written by Agustin Dominguez Iino, BSc


Park J et al. Intravascular innate immune cells reprogrammed via intravenous nanoparticles to promote functional recovery after spinal cord injury. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jul 8. pii: 201820276. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1820276116. [Epub ahead of print]

University of Michigan. An ‘EpiPen’ for spinal cord injuries. EurekAlert!

Image by Espressolia from Pixabay



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