Growth factors play an important role in nerve regeneration and repair. An attractive drug delivery strategy, termed “magnetic targeting”, aims to enhance therapeutic efficiency by directing magnetic drug carriers specifically to selected cell populations that are suitable for the nervous tissues. Here, we covalently conjugated nerve growth factor to iron oxide nanoparticles (NGF-MNPs) and used controlled magnetic fields to deliver the NGF–MNP complexes to target sites. In order to actuate the magnetic fields a modular magnetic device was designed and fabricated. PC12 cells that were plated homogenously in culture were differentiated selectively only in targeted sites out of the entire dish, restricted to areas above the magnetic “hot spots”. To examine the ability to guide the NGF-MNPs towards specific targets in vivo, we examined two model systems. First, we injected and directed magnetic carriers within the sciatic nerve. Second, we injected the MNPs intravenously and showed a significant accumulation of MNPs in mouse retina while using an external magnet that was placed next to one of the eyes. We propose a novel approach to deliver drugs selectively to injured sites, thus, to promote an effective repair with minimal systemic side effects, overcoming current challenges in regenerative therapeutics.
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