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Researchers develop nanogel to deliver anti-inflammatory drugs for spinal cord injury

The nanogels, in combination with rolipram, contributed to the recovery of injured tissue.

Researchers from the Instituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS and Politecnico di Milano have developed an innovative nanogel that is able to deliver anti-inflammatory drugs for spinal cord injury.

A spinal cord injury occurs when there is damage to the nerves and nerve fibres that send and receive signals from the brain.

This condition can lead to paraplegia, the inability to voluntarily move the lower parts of the body, or quadriplegia, a form of paralysis that affects all four limbs plus the torso.

Currently, the treatments available to modulate inflammatory responses caused by the component that controls the brain’s internal environment after acute spinal cord injury show limited efficacy.

In addition, the lack of therapeutic approaches that can selectively act on microglial and astrocytic cells contributes to this.

Published in Advanced Materials, researchers developed nanogels, which consist of polymers that bind to specific target glial cells that are vital in the inflammatory response following an acute spinal cord injury.

Using animal models, the study found that nanogels with the anti-inflammatory action drug rolipram successfully converted glial cells from a damaging to a protective state, contributing to the recovery of injured tissue.

The nanogels had a selective effect on glial cells, releasing the drug in a targeted manner to maximise its effect while also reducing possible side effects.

Pietro Veglianese, head of the acute spinal trauma and regeneration unit, department of neuroscience, Instituto Mario Negri, said: “These results open the way to new therapeutic possibilities for myelinolysis patients. Moreover, this approach may also be beneficial for treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, in which inflammation and glial cells play a significant role.”

Earlier this month, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology developed a plastic microfluidic chip to improve the safety and effectiveness of cell therapy treatments for patients living with spinal cord injuries.