Researchers at Northwestern University have developed an injectable therapy that consists of sequences of synthetic peptides intended to regenerate spinal tissue. The team designed the material to allow peptides to “dance,” with these movements increasing the chance of them finding and interacting with receptor proteins in neuronal tissue. The technique has already been shown to promote the repair of spinal cord injuries in mice.
“Our research aims to find a therapy that can prevent people from becoming paralyzed after a major trauma or illness,” Samuel Stupp, one of the developers of the new technology, said in a Northwest ad. “For decades, this has continued to be a major challenge for scientists because our body’s central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, has no significant ability to repair itself after an injury or after of the onset of a degenerative disease. We are going directly to the FDA to begin the process of approving this new therapy for use in human patients, who currently have very few treatment options. “
The injectable material contains synthetic peptides that are intended to stimulate spinal repair in the following ways: they help reduce scar tissue at the site of injury, stimulate axon and myelin regeneration, increase neuronal survival, and stimulate growth of blood vessels. However, the most exciting aspect of the technology is its ability to enhance the interactions between peptides and target receptors on the treated tissue. The injectable consists of a network of nanofibers that allow the peptides to move.
“The receptors on neurons and other cells move constantly,” Stupp said. “The key innovation in our research, which had never been done before, is to control the collective movement of more than 100,000 molecules within our nanofibers. By making molecules move, ‘dance’ or even they temporarily jump out of these structures, known as supramolecular polymers, are able to connect more effectively to receptors. ”
To date, researchers have tested its treatment in mice with spinal cord injuries that presented with paralysis of the hind legs. Four weeks after treatment, where the bioactive injectable was administered to the tissues surrounding the damaged spinal area, the mice regained the ability to walk.
“The tissues of the central nervous system that we have successfully regenerated in the injured spinal cord are similar to those of the brain affected by stroke and neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease,” he said. dir Stupp. “Beyond that, our fundamental discovery about controlling the movement of molecular assemblies to improve cell signaling could be universally applied to biomedical targets.”
Watch a video from Northwestern University about technology:
Study in the newspaper Science: Bioactive scaffolds with improved supramolecular movement promote the recovery of spinal cord injuries
Top image: A new injectable therapy forms nanofibers with two different bioactive signals (green and orange) that communicate with the cells to initiate repair of the injured spinal cord. Illustration by Mark Seniw