An estimated 12,000 new cases of spinal cord injury (SCI) occur every year in the United States. A small oxidative
molecule responsible for secondary injury, acrolein, is an important target in SCI. Acrolein attacks essential proteins and lipids, creating a feed-forward loop of oxidative stress in both the primary injury area and the surrounding areas. A small molecule used and FDA-approved for hypertension, hydralazine, has been found to "scavenge" acrolein after injury, but its delivery and short half-life, as well as its hypertension effects, hinder its application for SCI. Nanomedical systems broaden the range of therapeutic availability and efficacy over conventional medicine. They allow for targeted delivery of therapeutic molecules to tissues of interest, reducing side effects of untargeted therapies in unwanted areas. Nanoparticles made from silica form porous networks that can carry therapeutic molecules throughout the body. To attenuate the acrolein cascade and improve therapeutic availability, we have used a one-step, modified Stober method to synthesize two types of silica nanoparticles. Both particles are “stealth-coated” with poly(ethylene) glycol (PEG) (to minimize interactions with the immune system and to increase circulation time), which is also a therapeutic agent for SCI by facilitating membrane repair. One nanoparticle type contains an amine-terminal PEG (SiNP-mPEG-Am) and the other possesses a terminal hydrazide group (SiNP-mPEG-Hz). The former allows for exploration of hydralazine delivery, loading, and controlled release. The latter group has the ability to react with acrolein, allowing the nanoparticle to scavenge directly. The nanoparticles have been characterized and are being explored using neuronal PC-12 cells in vitro, demonstrating the potential of novel silica nanoparticles for use in attenuating secondary injury after SCI.