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Nanomedicine, Italian study on new treatments for spinal cord injuries

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Nanomedicine, Italian study on new treatments for spinal cord injuries

Like a miniature spaceship. This is how the innovative nanocarrier developed by a group of researchers from the Mario Negri Irccs Institute of Pharmacological Research and the Polytechnic of Milan works, capable of administering anti-inflammatory drugs in a targeted manner to the glial cells actively involved in the evolution of spinal cord injury, a condition that leads to paraplegia or quadriplegia. The study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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The difficulty in controlling the inflammatory response

The treatments currently available to modulate the inflammatory response after acute spinal cord trauma have shown limited efficacy mainly due to the lack of a therapeutic approach capable of acting selectively on microglial and astrocytic cells. Microglial and astrocytic cells are two types of glial cells that play a fundamental role in the defense and support of the central nervous system. However, an uncontrolled inflammatory response by these cells after acute central nervous system injury may limit the ability of the damaged tissue to recover. For this reason, the development of new therapeutic approaches, capable of selectively modulating the inflammatory response mediated by glial cells, represents an important objective to improve the treatment of spinal cord trauma.

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Selective nanogels

The nanocarriers developed by the Polytechnic University of Milan, called nanogels, are made up of polymers that can bind to specific target molecules. In this case, the nanogels were designed to bind to microglial and astrocytic cells, crucial in the inflammatory response after acute spinal cord trauma. The collaboration between the Mario Negri Irccs Pharmacological Research Institute and the Polytechnic of Milan demonstrated that the nanogels, loaded with an anti-inflammatory drug (rolipram), were able to convert glial cells from a harmful to a protective state , actively contributing to the recovery of damaged tissue.

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“The key to the research was understanding the functional groups capable of selectively targeting the nanogels within specific cell populationsexplains Philip Rossi, professor at the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering “Giulio Natta” of the Polytechnic of Milan. This allows us to optimize pharmacological treatments by reducing unwanted effects.”

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Less inflammation and faster recovery

Therefore, nanogels have been shown to have a selective effect on glial cells, releasing the drug in a targeted manner, maximizing its effect and reducing the possibility of side effects. “The results of the study – he continues Pietro Veglianese, head of the Acute Spinal Trauma and Regeneration Unit, Department of Neuroscience at the Mario Negri Institute – show that the nanogels reduced inflammation and improved recovery capacity in animal models with spinal cord injury by partially restoring motor function. These results open the way to new therapeutic possibilities for spinal cord injured patients. Furthermore, this approach may also be advantageous for treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, in which inflammation and glial cells play a significant role.”

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