According to researchers a new approach using nano-spheres shows promise in repairing damaged nerve fibers in spinal cord injuries.
Experts from Purdue University found that the synthetic "copolymer micelles" could be injected into the blood shortly after an accident.
Ji-Xin Cheng, an associate professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Chemistry, said: "That was a very surprising discovery. Micelles have been used for 30 years as drug-delivery vehicles in research, but no one has ever used them directly as a medicine."
The micelles might be used instead of more conventional "membrane sealing agents," including polyethylene glycol, which makes up the outer shell of the micelles.
Lead researcher Yunzhou Shi, biomedical engineering doctoral student found that the micelles also were shown to be non-toxic at the concentrations required.
The research also showed that the micelles treatment boosted the axon recovery to about 60 percent and that micelles might be used to repair axon membranes damaged by compression injuries, a common type of spine injury.
The findings were made with collaboration including Borgens; Riyi Shi, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and basic medical sciences; and Kinam Park, Showalter Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and a professor of pharmaceutics.
The Nature Nanotechnology paper was inked by Yunzhou Shi, postdoctoral researcher Sungwon Kim of the Department of Industrial and Physical Pharmacy, chemistry graduate student Terry B. Huff, Borgens, Park, Rihi Shi and Cheng.
The findings were detailed in a research paper that was due to be published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology on November 8.