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Nanoparticles Ease Spinal Inflammation

Researchers calm overactive immune cells by getting them to swallow polymer nanoparticles filled with anti-inflammation drugs

by Journal News and Community
November 11, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 45

In spinal cord wounds, immune cells often aggravate the injury by stirring up inflammation, which hinders healing and can lead to chronic pain. Researchers now demonstrate that, in mice, they can quiet the inflammation-causing cells by targeting them directly with drug-laden nanoparticles (ACS Nano 2013, DOI: 10.1021/nn4036014). Davide Moscatelli of Polytechnic University of Milan and colleagues used polymer nanoparticles that degrade inside cells. They predicted that these particles would easily get inside microglia—the immune cells that launch inflammation around the spinal cord—because microglia readily engulf foreign invaders. Once ingested by microglia, the particles would disperse their payload. To test the particles, the researchers loaded them with minocycline, an anti-inflammation drug. Three days after they injected the drug-loaded particles into mice with injured spinal cords, the levels of molecules indicating inflammation were 50% lower in microglia from treated animals compared with cells from untreated mice.

Micrographs show how when researchers apply drug-filled nanoparticles to nervous system immune cells, the cells take up the particles (orange, right) and the drug escapes into the cells. The treated cells then change from their round, active form (left) to their elongated, inactive form (right).
Credit: ACS Nano
When nervous system immune cells are exposed to drug-filled nanoparticles, they take up the particles (orange, right) and the drug escapes into the cells. Treated cells then change from a round, active form (left) to an elongated, inactive form (right).


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