Initial injuries to the spinal cord often set off a domino effect that extends to nearby tissues and nerves. These secondary issues, which may include inflammation and internal scarring, can make it difficult for the nervous system to orchestrate the normal healing process. One possible way to minimize this secondary damage is nanoscience. Advancements in this field could have a positive impact on the treatment of spinal cord injuries (SCIs), including spine surgery. Los Angeles surgeons from The Spine Institute want to share information on this considerable breakthrough.
What Are Nanoparticles?
As the name implies, nanoparticles are very small particles ranging between 1 and 100 nanometers in size. These particles are scientifically appealing because they have a greater surface area that makes them more receptive to certain molecules. Nanoparticles can be manipulated to achieve certain results, similar to what’s done with stem cells.
What’s the Breakthrough with Spinal Cord Injuries?
Northwestern University researchers saw improvements in mice with spinal cord issues. After being injected with nanoparticles, the rodents could walk better than those that did not receive injections. Also, there haven’t been any adverse reactions seen in the tested mice.
Is This a “Cure” for Spinal Cord Injuries?
Not exactly. However, researchers are encouraged by the results. They view it as a step in the right direction toward helping the 12,000 people diagnosed with spinal cord injuries each year in the United States, along with the other individuals managing issues related to SCIs.
How Do Nanoparticles Affect an Injured Spinal Cord?
The nanoparticles injected in the tests on rodents work by binding to cells originating in blood plasma that causes inflammation. The injection of nanoparticles causes the special white blood cells to be diverted to the spleen instead of around the spinal cord. Keeping these cells away from an injured spinal cord keeps inflammation from affecting tissues near the spine, effectively preventing secondary issues from becoming severe.
What About Scar Tissue?
On the surface, scar tissue around the spine is a good thing because it’s part of the body’s natural healing process. It provides a protective covering around damaged tissues to allow for healing. However, scar tissue can also be a source of pain if it binds to nerve roots. By diverting inflammatory blood cells away from the damaged part of the spinal cord, nanoparticles also keep other inflammatory agents at bay, which keeps scar tissue from forming.
Will It Work on Humans?
Further research is needed to determine if nanoparticle injections will work well on human patients with SCIs. However, researchers believe the treatment is transferable to humans. It’s an appealing option because it would simply involve an injection without the need for surgery or other invasive action.
If nanoparticle research leads to additional breakthroughs with treatments on humans, it’s possible that injections could routinely be administered to patients with SCIs to minimize the risk of secondary damage. Nanoscience is just one form of technology behind several promising advances involving spinal cord injury care. In early 2017, scientists reported the creation of a stem cell-derived neuron that may restore movement in patients with SCIs.
Much like there are many types of spinal injuries, there are also many methods of treating said injuries. At The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration, we specialize in a wide array of procedures, from artificial disc replacement to spinal fusion. Los Angeles patients who are seeking an effective solution to alleviating their pain should call 310-828-7757 right away to schedule an appointment.