The zealous immune response to injuries is known to cause paralyzing damage in spinal cord injury (SCI).

Engineers have now created unique nanoparticles that redirect immune cells away from the spinal cord, promoting regeneration that helped restore spinal cord function in mice. The study was funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

The spinal cord, similar to the brain, has a blood-brain barrier that guards the fragile nerves against possible damage from numerous assaults; for example, it blocks immune cells from migrating to the site of injury to clean up debris.

This blood-brain barrier gets damaged when a traumatic injury occurs in the spinal cord, and the quick influx of immune cells produces an environment that tries to rapidly shore-up the injury but, at the same time, blocks regenerative processes that can effectively reconstruct and reconnect fragile damaged nerves.

Now, a method has been developed by NIBIB-grantee Lonnie Shea, PhD, the Steven A Goldstein Collegiate Professor, Biomedical engineering, and his coworkers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to overcome this problem.

This technique involves redirecting several immune cells away from the site of injury and simultaneously inducing those cells that do reach the SCI to change to an anti-inflammatory profile. This creates factors that promote a regenerative healing process, which can help restore function.

The novel method has been reported in the July edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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