Minocycline-Loaded Poly(α-Lipoic Acid)-Methylprednisolone Prodrug Nanoparticles for the Combined Anti-Inflammatory Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury

Int J Nanomedicine. 2022 Jan 7:17:91-104. doi: 10.2147/IJN.S344491. eCollection 2022.


Purpose: Traumatic spinal cord injury (TSCI) induces a powerful inflammatory response that can significantly exacerbate the extent and severity of neural damage (termed as "secondary injury"). Thus, the suppression of inflammation is crucial for reducing neurological dysfunction following TSCI. However, the conventional anti-inflammatory drugs show limited efficacy because of poor penetration and release kinetics at the injury site. This study describes the design, synthesis, release kinetics, biosafety, and preclinical efficacy of minocycline (MC)-loaded poly(α-lipoic acid)-methylprednisolone (PαLA-MP) prodrug nanoparticles (NPs) for the combined anti-inflammatory treatment of TSCI.

Methods: NPs were produced by conjugating MP to PαLA and then loading MC. The NP structure was confirmed through 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, ultraviolet-visible absorption spectroscopy, gel permeation chromatography, dynamic light scattering, and transmission electron microscopy. Drug-loading content and efficacy were measured using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) or 1H NMR and release kinetics through HPLC. Biosafety was examined using the MTT assay, cell penetration efficiency using confocal microscopy, and flow cytometry using Cyanine5 (Cy5)-labeled MC-PαLA-MP NPs, effects on injury-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine release using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and immunofluorescence, and treatment efficacy by measuring motor recovery in a rat model of TSCI.

Results: The MC-PαLA-MP NPs exhibited high biocompatibility and released 81% MC and 54% MP within 24 h under TSCI-like conditions, effectively reducing 40% of pro-inflammatory cytokine release both in cultures and injured rat spinal cord tissues. Systemic injection increased the Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan score of TSCI rats from 2.33 ± 0.52 to 8.83 ± 1.83 in 8 weeks, providing effective neuroprotection and enhanced exercise recovery in the TSCI rats.

Conclusion: The MC-PαLA-MP NPs can mitigate secondary inflammation and preserve motor function following experimental TSCI, which suggests their potential for clinical application.

Keywords: anti-inflammation; motor recovery; nanomedicine; neuroprotection; spinal cord injury.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Methylprednisolone
  • Minocycline
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Prodrugs* / therapeutic use
  • Rats
  • Recovery of Function
  • Spinal Cord
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / drug therapy
  • Thioctic Acid*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Prodrugs
  • Thioctic Acid
  • Minocycline
  • Methylprednisolone