Injecting tiny polymer spheres into rats right after a spinal cord injury helped the animals recover movement and prevented secondary nerve damage that often follows such injuries, US researchers say.
The experimental treatment uses spheres called copolymer micelles that fuse with injured nerve fibers and prevent inflammation from doing more damage to surrounding nerves.
"What we did here was we invented a method to treat the spinal injury at the early stage," says Ji-Xin Cheng of Purdue University in Indiana, whose study appears in the journal Nature Nanomedicine.
Copolymer micelles, roughly 100 times smaller than the diameter of a red blood cell, have been used in research for three decades as a drug-delivery vehicle.
The treatment takes advantage of the chemical properties of the micelles to help seal damaged membranes and prevent more damage.