Researchers investigating nanotechnology to detect and treat TBI

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A group of researchers at Arizona State University are investigating ways to use nanoscale devices to detect and treat traumatic brain injury. Their goal is to create interventions that target the molecular “microenvironment” of the injured brain.

The investigation is being led by Sarah Stabenfeldt, a biomedical engineer at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Stabenfeldt is exploring ways to take advantage of the molecular and cell-level changes triggered by brain injury.

“[C]urrent treatment modalities for TBI focus on minimizing the secondary symptoms and complications associated with TBI; however, no clinical treatments currently exist to treat the underlying neuropathology for any level of injury severity,” according to project information available from the National Institutes of Health. “Therefore, there is an obvious need to develop diagnostic and therapeutic (theranostic) intervention strategies that recognize and exploit the molecular pathological events.”

Antibody probes
Stabenfeldt is focusing on the use of single-chain antibody fragments, or nanobodies. Her goal is to create engineered nanobody probes that recognize the molecular targets that arise following brain injury. According to the NIH information, these nanobody probes could potentially be used to image neural injury, deliver therapeutics and support neural regeneration.

The research is being supported by a $2.3 million “Director’s New Innovator Award” grant from the National Institutes of Health, according to an ASU News report.