Innovative Nanogel Targets Glial Cells for Effective Spinal Cord Injury Treatment

An innovative nanogel has shown effectiveness in targeting glial cells for the treatment of spinal cord injuries.  Researchers from the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS and the Politecnico di Milano developed a nanovector that is capable of delivering anti-inflammatory drugs in a targeted manner into glial cells actively involved in the evolution of spinal cord injury, a condition that leads to paraplegia or quadriplegia.

Current treatments for modulating the inflammatory response after acute spinal cord injury showed limited efficacy. There is also currently a lack of a therapeutic approach that can selectively act on microglial and astrocytic cells.

The team at the Politecnico di Milano developed nanogels consisting of polymers that can bind to specific target molecules. For this study, the nanogels were designed to bind to glial cells, which are crucial in the inflammatory response following acute spinal cord injury. The teams were then able to demonstrate that these nanogels, when loaded with a drug with anti-inflammatory action (rolipram), were able to convert glial cells from a damaging to a protective state, actively contributing to the recovery of injured tissue.

“The results of the study show that nanogels reduced inflammation and improved recovery capacity in animal models with spinal cord injury, partially restoring motor function,” said Pietro Veglianese, Head of the Acute Spinal Trauma and Regeneration Unit, Department of Neuroscience at Istituto Mario Negri. “These results open the way to new therapeutic possibilities for myelolysis 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.”

The nanogels were shown to have a selective effect on glial cells, releasing the drug in a targeted manner, maximizing its effect, and reducing possible side effects.

“The key to the research was understanding the functional groups that can selectively target nanogels within specific cell populations,”said Filippo Rossi, professor at the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering ‘Giulio Natta’ at Politecnico di Milano. “This makes it possible to optimize drug treatments by reducing unwanted effects.”