When it comes to spinal cord injuries that lead to paralysis, it is the immune system that actually causes most of the damage. Soon, however, it’s possible that an injection of nanoparticles at the injury site could prevent the body’s immune system from overreacting to trauma and resulting in paralysis.
Such an approach was demonstrated in mice at the University of Michigan, with nanoparticles enhancing healing by reprogramming the well-meaning but destructive immune cells. The nanoparticles, made from a biodegradable polymer, contain no medication whatsoever that could potentially cause side effects. Instead, they bind with immune cells that are on their way to the injury, redirecting them away from the trauma, while those that continue on to it produce less inflammation than they would otherwise.
It is hoped that once developed further, the technology could be incorporated into an EpiPen-like device that would be used to rapidly inject the particles as soon as possible after an injury occurs.