The article calls it an “Epi Pen” for trauma to the central nervous system. The original Epi Pen is the inspiration for an injection of nanoparticles to stop the body from overreacting to a traumatic event. The hope is that the treatment will reduce or stop the reaction from blocking the regeneration of the spinal cord’s nerve cells in the patient. Studies on mice at the University of Michigan have shown promise as the nanoparticles help to reprogram immune cells. Most bodily trauma causes an immune response that removes debris so that healing can begin. This system is unique for the central nervous system because there is a barrier that prevents this response. Spinal cord injuries often break the barrier, and the immune cells that are allowed in often overact, causing additional inflammation in the sensitive tissues of the central nervous system. This can cause catastrophic damage as it kills neurons; damages nerve fibers; and causes scarring. In worst cases this blocks the regeneration of the nerve cells and can help lead to paralysis, and less severe problems.
Steroid injections have been used to interfere in the response, but the risks of the side effects are too dangerous. Researchers hope that nanoparticles will provide the hoped-for benefits without the dangerous side effects.
The nanoparticles differ from EpiPen injections in that they are not chemicals, which is what should eliminate the side effects while stimulating regeneration by reducing the number of immune cells at the injury site. It has shown promise for trauma associated with West Nile virus and multiple sclerosis.