Concept art of neurons

Drug delivery system could assist recovery from neurological injuries

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Rutgers University researchers have developed a smart drug delivery system, which uses extremely thin biomaterials implanted in the body. The system reduces inflammation in damaged nervous tissue, rendering it suitable to help patients recover from spinal cord injuries and other neurological disorders.

Inflammation is a major complicating factor during recovery from central nervous system diseases and injuries.

These conditions are often debilitating and most have no satisfactory cure, due to the formation of conditions in the microenvironment at the site of injury which inhibit normal nervous activity.

While some regenerative medicine approaches have shown exciting potential for treating spinal cord injuries; traumatic brain injury; Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; stroke, and other neurological disorders, suppressing the immune system throughout treatment can cause unwelcome side effects and boost the risk of infection.

“A major goal is to suppress neuroinflammation and restore a healthy micro-environment at sites of neurological disorders,” said Professor KiBum Lee, from Rutgers University’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, who led this study. “Our system took four years to develop and has shown enormous potential for smart drug delivery for better treatment of neurological disorders.”

The Rutgers-led team’s drug delivery system consists of ultrathin nanomaterials, sugar polymers and neural proteins. The system releases an anti-inflammatory molecule (methylprednisolone), creating a favourable microenvironment to promote tissue repair and recovery after neurological injury.

The system also promotes significant growth and recovery of nerve fibres (axons) which connect nerve cells in injured neural tissues, through a unique mechanism of anti-inflammation-based scar reduction.

Lee and his research group hope that by developing multifunctional and reliable drug delivery systems using nano-biomaterials, they may help improve the treatment of debilitating neurological disorders. This new system could pave the way for treating not only central nervous system injuries but also other diseases, as inflammation is associated with a variety of problems, including diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The research is described in a study in Advanced Materials.

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