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Nanocarriers loaded with DNA relieve back pain, repairs damaged disk in mice

Date: 17.5.2024 

Disk-related back pain may one day meet its therapeutic match: Gene therapy delivered by naturally derived nanocarriers that, a new study shows, repairs damaged disks in the spine and lowers pain symptoms in mice.

Kredit: Tang et al. (2024), Biomaterials.Scientists engineered nanocarriers using mouse connective-tissue cells called fibroblasts as a model of skin cells and loaded them with genetic material for a protein key to tissue development. The team injected a solution containing the carriers into damaged disks in mice at the same time the back injury occurred.

Assessing outcomes over 12 weeks, researchers found through imaging, tissue analysis, and mechanical and behavioral tests that the gene therapy restored structural integrity and function to degenerated disks and reduced signs of back pain in the animals.

"We have this unique strategy that's able to both regenerate tissue and inhibit some symptoms of pain," said co-senior author Devina Purmessur Walter, associate professor of biomedical engineering at The Ohio State University. Though there is more to learn, the findings suggest gene therapy could offer an effective and long-lasting alternative to opioids for the management of debilitating back pain.

In this study, the cargo consisted of material to produce a "pioneer" transcription factor protein called FOXF1, which is important in the development and growth of tissues. "Our concept is recapitulating development: FOXF1 is expressed during development and in healthy tissue, but it decreases with age," Purmessur Walter said. "We're basically trying to trick the cells and give them a boost back to their developmental state when they're growing and at their healthiest."

Image source: Tang et al. (2024), Biomaterials.





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