In a study that appears in the medical journal Nature Nanomedicine, Purdue University researcher Ji-Xin Cheng has released a study that profiles a new treatment that could stop the secondary nerve damage caused by spinal injuries, as well as help restore movement in injury victims. By injecting tiny spheres known as copolymer micelles, rats that had suffered new spinal injuries immediately showed signs of recovery with no additional nerve damage.
The experimental surgery involves the injection of the tiny spheres, which then fuse to the initial injured nerves. This combination eliminates the possibility of inflammation and swelling in the surrounding nerves and tissues, thus decreasing the ultimate damage of the injury. Long used in surgeries and research as drug-carrying agents, the copolymer micelles are now used as a repair mechanism, something that is entirely new for these infinitesimally small spheres.
Because of the micelles’ makeup, the tiny bodies are perfectly suited to travel through the bloodstream and not face any decomposition or rejection from the body’s immune system, nor are they affected by bodily fluids, as they thrive in fluids. By using dyed micelles, the researchers were able to prove that the spheres traveled directly to the injured area and immediately fused to the membranes to being a reparation process.
So far, in the cases of testing rats, the toxicity tests show that this process is ultimately safe. Rats that were treated immediately after their injuries showed recovery signs in all four limbs. Some of the test subjects, however, did not fare as well. The next step for this Purdue team is to test the micelles on rats that have suffered a spine injury three hours before treatment. The research team believes that if they can make progress on animals that were not treated immediately after injury, then they might be able to use this treatment process in emergency rooms for humans after accidents that led to spinal injuries.