Sirocco, the new era of regenerative medicine

Self-healing and tissue regeneration is one of the goals of modern medicine today. From our birth to our death, our cells They lose the ability to regenerate. While a wound in a baby heals quickly, it takes longer to heal in an older person. This is why supporting the ability of our cells to divide and multiply to close wounds or heal damage is one of the desired goals and it will mean improving the approach to many diseases.

In recent times, research, such as this from the University of Connecticut, has reached successfully regenerate articular cartilage in a rabbit through electrical signals prompting cells to regenerate, by designing a tissue matrix with nanofibers of polylactic acid, a biodegradable polymer that produces an electrical charge when compressed. The researchers’ objective was to ensure that this matrix generates a stable and constant electric field that attracts the cells and that they succeed in regenerating the cartilage.

So far, this progress has been successful, laying the groundwork for regeneration of human joints. But this is not the only research that seeks to regenerate tissue. For two years, biochemistry Mary Moores, from Superior Council for Scientific Research, and his team seek to “trick” cells into promoting regeneration. An investigation based on his knowledge of the capabilities of nanoparticles and his experience with the Vulgar Hydra, a small polyp that shares an evolutionary origin with jellyfish and is capable of unlimited regeneration. “If you divide this polyp in two, in three days, you have two completely identical animals,” the researcher told “Humans also have this ability, but let’s say it’s asleep.”

“Our goal is to trick the cell with a nanoparticle and a magnet that create a force that the cell’s sensors interpret as an obligation to divide”

From this pair of ideas was born sirocco, a project that, due to its innovation, has obtained funding of almost two million euros from the European Research Council, “a dream” that has made possible these two years of research in which they showed that their hypothesis could be feasible. “Our goal is trick the cell with a nanoparticle and a magnet which create a force that the cell’s sensors interpret as an obligation to divide to increase regeneration.”

The idea stems from the concept of mechanotransduction, a phenomenon that takes advantage of cells’ ability to sense certain mechanical stimuli and transform them into biochemical signals that send cells the need to multiply. Cells are able to sense different voltage changes or different forces that cause them to act. “When we have a wound, for example, sensors in the cell membrane detect a change in voltage, because there are fewer cells around, and signal the cell to divide, causing regeneration.” By using modified electromagnetic nanoparticles and a magnet, these researchers were able to mimic this process.

“We have placed in the electromagnetic nanoparticles, in an area that then comes into contact with the sensors that cover the cell membrane, the molecules that we want to express, previously modified. We have achieved this first step by attaching the nanoparticles to the cells we want”. And through different processes they saw that these particles were able to give the message, the problem now is to find the exact level of force which produces the magnet for this phenomenon to occur.

“We are struggling to refine the exact force the magnet needs to exert to attract these nanoparticles and generate the chain of responses”

“We are struggling to refine the exact force the magnet needs to apply to attract these nanoparticles and generate the chain of responses.” The pandemic during the first months of the project which saw the light of day in May 2022, the Brexit which makes it difficult to access technology from the United Kingdom, and the lack of an engineer who would like to work with them on a university project have delayed this process. . “In October, a physical engineer arrives to help us regulate the power of the magnets. We hope that with this we will have results soon,” says Moros.


The possibility of sending the regeneration order to a specific cell opens the doors to a new field of regenerative medicine and personalized able to reach the wound and treat it by reducing side effects. “While other treatments affect the whole body, this one would only focus on the area being treated.”

Initially, this system will be used for superficial wounds, once the theory in cell culture has been demonstrated and we can begin to apply it first in animals and then in humans. It will take time to see, if its effectiveness is confirmed, this treatment in clinical care. “But once the theory is proven, we will be able to target nanoparticles to any part of the body that we want to control, and we would like to target stem cells. Then it will continue to be seen, reaching this point will be an important step,” concludes María Moros.

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