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Nanomedicine paves the way for new treatments for spinal cord injury

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Nanomedicine paves the way for new treatments for spinal cord injury

Nanocarrier Demonstrated to Administer Anti-inflammatory Drugs in a Targeted Manner

Researchers Pietro Veglianese, Valeria Veneruso, and Emilia Petillo of the Institute of Pharmacological Research Mario Negri IRCCS, in collaboration with Philip Rossi of the Politecnico di Milano, have made a groundbreaking discovery. They demonstrated that an innovative nanocarrier, developed by them, is capable of administering anti-inflammatory drugs in a targeted manner in glial cells actively involved in the evolution of spinal cord injury, a condition that leads to paraplegia or quadriplegia.

Treatments currently available to modulate the inflammatory response mediated by the glial component after acute spinal cord trauma have shown limited effectiveness. This limited efficacy is partly 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. An uncontrolled inflammatory response by these cells after acute damage to the central nervous system can limit the ability to recover damaged tissue. For this reason, the development of new therapeutic approaches capable of selectively modulating the inflammatory response mediated by glial cells represents an important goal to improve the treatment of spinal cord trauma.

The nanocarriers, called nanogels, developed by the Polytechnic of Milan, are made of polymers that can bind to specific target molecules. In this case, 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. The 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.

Philip Rossi, professor at the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering “Giulio Natta” of the Polytechnic of Milan, explained, “The key to the research was understanding the functional groups capable of selectively directing the nanogels within specific cell populations. This allows to optimize pharmacological treatments reducing unwanted effects.” Pietro Veglianese, Head of the Acute Spinal Trauma and Regeneration Unit, Department of Neuroscience at the Mario Negri Institute, added, “The results of the study show that the nanogels have reduced inflammation and improved recovery capacity in animal models with spinal cord injury, partially restoring motor function. These results open new therapeutic possibilities for spinal cord injured patients. Furthermore, this approach can 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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The discovery holds promise for significantly improving the treatment and recovery of patients with spinal cord injuries and related conditions.

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