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  • Friday, 22 Feb, 2019
  • 8:09:15 PM

Healing the Body through Advances in Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology  is  the science, engineering or technology that involves manipulating matter with at least one dimension that falls in the range between 1 and 100 nanometers.  Nanotechnology applications in many fields have the potential to profoundly change the world of everyday experience. Here are some recently reported achievements in nanomedicine. There are two types of damages that affect recovery after a spinal cord injury. The first is the initial injury to the spinal cord itself. The second is additional nerve damage caused by inflammation and scarring that follows the initial injury. Researchers have demonstrated that injection of biodegradable nanoparticles  into the bloodstream can prevent the damage caused by inflammation and scarring. Inflammation is caused by inflammatory monocytes that gather at the location of a spinal cord injury. The monocytes release cytokines that strip the myelin sheath from nerve fibers and damage the axons that carry the signal from one neuron to the next. When this happens, the affected nerves don’t function properly and normal repair processes are disrupted. There are no currently accepted treatments for preventing this secondary damage. Prior research has focused on blocking the inflammatory monocytes from entering the bloodstream as a way to prevent inflammation following a spinal cord injury. However, blocking the monocytes also blocks other types of cells that aid in the recovery process. A research team has taken a different approach. Instead of trying to prevent the monocytes from entering the bloodstream, they focused on stopping the action of the cytokines at the location of the injury. The researchers found that inflammation can be prevented by injecting nanoparticles made of poly(lactic-co-glycolic) acid into the bloodstream. The nanoparticles bind to the cytokines and carry them away from the site of the injury. The nanoparticles don’t interfere with the cells that aid recovery. The researchers tested the nanoparticles on mice with spinal cord injuries that affected their ability to walk. Mice that were treated with nanoparticle injections shortly after the injury were able to walk better after they recovered compared to the  mice that had not received the injections. This  nanoparticle treatment doesn’t involve surgery, all that’s needed is an injection. Moreover, the nanoparticles are stable when kept in a syringe so that the emergency room personnel can administer the injection as soon as they encounter someone who is injured.These nanoparticles already have prior FDA (Food and Drug Administration, USA) approval for use in re-absorbable sutures and for experimental treatments of celiac disease. The next step is to determine whether the nanoparticles cause harm when injected into the bloodstream.Some other group of researchers have developed an extraordinary procedure using a different type of nanotechnology that may prove capable of repairing the initial injury itself. The procedure is called Tissue Nanotransfection and it not only repairs damaged tissue, it can also restore function to ageing tissue.It uses a small nanochip delivery device to reprogram skin cells to form other types of cells that can then be used to repair or restore function to nerves, blood vessels, organs and other types of damaged tissue. The delivery device is a silicon chip that is perforated with nanoscale-sized holes. The chip is placed on a small area of depilated and exfoliated skin, a drop of the genetic material that reprograms skin cells is added, and a small electrical charge is applied. The electrical current passes through the holes in the chip and opens up channels through the upper layer of the skin. The genetic material is delivered through the channels and the reprogramming process begins. The researchers also tested it on badly injured mice that had lost blood flow to their legs. After treatment, working blood vessels appeared in the damaged legs after one week, and the legs were saved by the end of the second week. The researchers also showed that the reprogrammed nerve cells helped mice recover from a stroke. The nanotransfection is painless and very easy to use. It’s non-invasive, the electrical charge can be barely felt, and the nanochip is removed after the procedure. The nanochip is placed on the skin, the genetic material is added, the chip is zapped and , removed. It also has the significant advantage that the reprogrammed cells aren't rejected by the immune system because they're created within the patient’s own body. Thus far the procedures have  been reported to be effective with mice and pigs. The next stage of research would be the clinical trials with humans. The nanotechnology has a great  potential to revolutionize the  treatment of injuries and might even be able to reverse or at least arrest the degenerative effects of ageing. (The References have not been given due to space constraint.)

 



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