A pinboard by
Endre Szvetnik

I write for Sparrho and work with Curators to translate and disseminate research to the public.

I believe scientific thinking fosters progress and is beneficial to society.


Nanotechnology could hold the answer to how cure Multiple Sclerosis one day.

In 10 seconds? Scientists hope that using ‘gold diamonds’ can help to counter MS by boosting the natural process for restoring the nerve-protecting insulation that gets destroyed by the disease.

Why is this important? MS rips off nerve-coating myelin sheaths in our brains and spinal cords, causing a multitude of symptoms from limping and blurred vision to depression. The nervous system tries to counter it via the process of ‘remyelination’, but cannot repair enough nerves in the face of the recurring onslaught by MS. Therefore, being able to boost the process can help to reverse MS.

And what did scientists discover? That injecting 10-faced, diamond-shaped gold nanocrystals into lab mice can induce the repair process! The treatment halved damaged areas around nerves and reduced the severity of damage by up to five times. As a result — researchers claim — fine motor function was largely restored, meaning that the mice were able to move around more freely than before they developed MS.

Why nanotechnology? These tiny particles have great potential in delivering smaller, but more efficient doses. They are so small that they can flow through the ‘sieve’ of the blood-brain barrier, which larger conventional drugs molecules cannot pass.

How did they verify the reversal of MS? They studied cross-sections of test animals’ brains and observed their behaviour. They found that healthy mice tend to stay by the edge of their boxes, whereas MS-suffering ones stay in the centre. With the experimental treatment, the MS mice started spending more time by the edges, suggesting that they were getting better.

So when will the new drugs land? Scientists are planning a Phase II human trial in the summer, which means they’re getting closer to approval for these nanocrystals. In the meantime, the researchers involved have proposed that a lack of energy within cells may be the cause of slow remyelination, thereby providing further insight into how MS develops.

How does remyelination work? The nervous system can restore myelin, oligodendrocyte precursor cells to do the job.

At early stages of MS the process repairs most of the damage. For relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients it means they can regain lost functions after attacks.

However, the body gradually becomes unable to keep pace with the neural devastation and symptoms worsen making many people partially paralysed.

Scientists are working hard to boost remyelination and reverse MS.


Remyelination in multiple sclerosis.

Abstract: Remyelination is the phenomenon by which new myelin sheaths are generated around axons in the adult central nervous system (CNS). This follows the pathological loss of myelin in diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS). Remyelination can restore conduction properties to axons (thereby restoring neurological function) and is increasingly believed to exert a neuroprotective role on axons. Remyelination occurs in many MS lesions but becomes increasingly incomplete/inadequate and eventually fails in the majority of lesions and patients. Efforts to understand the causes for this failure of regeneration have fueled research into the biology of remyelination and the complex, interdependent cellular and molecular factors that regulate this process. Examination of the mechanisms of repair of experimental lesions has demonstrated that remyelination occurs in two major phases. The first consists of colonization of lesions by oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs), the second the differentiation of OPCs into myelinating oligodendrocytes that contact demyelinated axons to generate functional myelin sheaths. Several intracellular and extracellular molecules have been identified that mediate these two phases of repair. Theoretically, the repair of demyelinating lesions can be promoted by enhancing the intrinsic repair process (by providing one or more remyelination-enhancing factors or via immunoglobulin therapy). Alternatively, endogenous repair can be bypassed by introducing myelinogenic cells into demyelinated areas; several cellular candidates have been identified that can mediate repair of experimental demyelinating lesions. Future challenges confronting therapeutic strategies to enhance remyelination will involve the translation of findings from basic science to clinical demyelinating disease.

Pub.: 29 May '07, Pinned: 08 Feb '18

SERS properties of different sized and shaped gold nanoparticles biosynthesized under different environmental conditions by Neurospora crassa extract.

Abstract: Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) is a surface-sensitive technique that enhances Raman scattering by molecules adsorbed on rough metal surfaces. It is known that metal nanoparticles, especially gold and silver nanoparticles, exhibit great SERS properties, which make them very attractive for the development of biosensors and biocatalysts. On the other hand, the development of ecofriendly methods for the synthesis of metallic nanostructures has become the focus of research in several countries, and many microorganisms and plants have already been used to biosynthesize metallic nanostructures. However, the majority of these are pathogenic to plants or humans. Here, we report gold nanoparticles with good SERS properties, biosynthesized by Neurospora crassa extract under different environmental conditions, increasing Raman signals up to 40 times using methylene blue as a target molecule. Incubation of tetrachloroauric acid solution with the fungal extract at 60°C and a pH value of a) 3, b) 5.5, and c) 10 resulted in the formation of gold nanoparticles of a) different shapes like triangles, hexagons, pentagons etc. in a broad size range of about 10-200 nm, b) mostly quasi-spheres with some different shapes in a main size range of 6-23 nm, and c) only quasi-spheres of 3-12 nm. Analyses included TEM, HRTEM, and EDS in order to corroborate the shape and the elemental character of the gold nanoparticles, respectively. The results presented here show that these 'green' synthesized gold nanoparticles might have potential applicability in the field of biological sensing.

Pub.: 17 Oct '13, Pinned: 08 Feb '18

Nanoplatforms for constructing new approaches to cancer treatment, imaging, and drug delivery: what should be the policy?

Abstract: Nanotechnology is the design and assembly of submicroscopic devices called nanoparticles, which are 1-100 nm in diameter. Nanomedicine is the application of nanotechnology for the diagnosis and treatment of human disease. Disease-specific receptors on the surface of cells provide useful targets for nanoparticles. Because nanoparticles can be engineered from components that (1) recognize disease at the cellular level, (2) are visible on imaging studies, and (3) deliver therapeutic compounds, nanotechnology is well suited for the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of diseases. Nanotechnology will enable earlier detection and treatment of diseases that are best treated in their initial stages, such as cancer. Advances in nanotechnology will also spur the discovery of new methods for delivery of therapeutic compounds, including genes and proteins, to diseased tissue. A myriad of nanostructured drugs with effective site-targeting can be developed by combining a diverse selection of targeting, diagnostic, and therapeutic components. Incorporating immune target specificity with nanostructures introduces a new type of treatment modality, nano-immunochemotherapy, for patients with cancer. In this review, we will discuss the development and potential applications of nanoscale platforms in medical diagnosis and treatment. To impact the care of patients with neurological diseases, advances in nanotechnology will require accelerated translation to the fields of brain mapping, CNS imaging, and nanoneurosurgery. Advances in nanoplatform, nano-imaging, and nano-drug delivery will drive the future development of nanomedicine, personalized medicine, and targeted therapy. We believe that the formation of a science, technology, medicine law-healthcare policy (STML) hub/center, which encourages collaboration among universities, medical centers, US government, industry, patient advocacy groups, charitable foundations, and philanthropists, could significantly facilitate such advancements and contribute to the translation of nanotechnology across medical disciplines.

Pub.: 13 Feb '10, Pinned: 08 Feb '18