St. Lawrence University study discovers nanoparticle that may help multiple sclerosis patients
Friday, December 6, 2013 - 5:46 pm

CANTON -- St. Lawrence University professors and recent graduates have discovered a type of nanoparticle that may alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Karin Heckman, assistant professor of biology, and William E. DeCoteau, associate professor of psychology, were lead authors on a research paper, published in a scientific journal, that examined cerium oxide nanoparticles and their ability to alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

The article, titled “Custom Cerium Oxide Nanoparticles Protect Against a Free Radical Mediated Autoimmune Degenerative Disease in the Brain,” was published this month in ACS Nano, a publication of the American Chemical Society.

Ana Y. Estevez, associate professor of biology and psychology, and Joseph S. Erlichman, professor and R. Sheldon ’68 and Virginia H. Johnson Chair of Science and co-chair of the Department of Biology, were also listed as authors in the publication.

The study concluded that cerium oxide nanoparticles are widely used as catalysts in industrial applications and are considered potent antioxidants due to their free radical-scavenging properties.

Heckman, DeCoteau, and the other author’s laboratory experiments indicate the particular set of particles located in research at St. Lawrence University have the potential to alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease, while not causing damage to the liver and spleen of mice.

“St. Lawrence has a unique set of cerium oxide particles,” said Heckman, who specializes in infections and autoimmune diseases. “These particles move into the brain to help to provide therapy. Yet, these particles also diminish over time.”

Heckman also recently attended a Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization conference earlier this month in Santa Barbara, Calif., where she delivered a presentation titled “Differences in the Neuroprotective Effects of Nanoceria in a Murine Model of Multiple Sclerosis,” and tested St. Lawrence’s particle research against other commercially available products.

The presentation mirrored the recently published paper.

Heckman was joined at the conference by Associate Professor of Chemistry Matthew C. Skeels, DeCoteau and Erlichman.

Heckman said ultimately the development of a pharmaceutical drug is the goal.

“The question we’re asking now is how can these particles be used therapeutically if they’re packaged in the correct chemical form,” she said. “It can take up to 10 years for a drug to be fully developed, from the initial research to FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approval. But, yes, that’s the goal.”

According to Heckman, former St. Lawrence University students were instrumental in the study, monitoring experiments twice a day and conducting a series of motor tests on laboratory mice.