Spinal Cord Nerve Regeneration & New 3D Printed Bridge Device

Spinal Cord Nerve Regeneration & New 3D Printed Bridge Device

There’s a lot money being directed to the medical field of nerve regeneration and for good reason. In the United States alone, 11,000 people are victims of spinal cord traumas and injuries that leave them permanently disabled. The reason is because the central nervous system can’t regenerate damaged nerves. . . . spinal injuries simply can’t heal themselves.

Scientists know that relaying any nerve cell signals could improve some functions for patients. A bridge needs to be designed between living nerve cells above and below the area of the spinal cord injury. But, how to to create the bridge?

With 3D technology, of course.

A 3-D printed guide has been developed by a national team of researchers that serves as this wished-for bridge when it is implanted in the damaged nerve area .The bridge should promoted the regrow of  both the sensory and motor functions of complex nerves after trauma.

This “first-of-its-kind” device is made of silicone and serves as a platform for specialized cells that are then printed on top of it. Engineers and medical researchers at the University of Minnesota are hopeful this device will help patients alleviate pain as well as regain some functions like control of muscles, bowel and bladder.

According to a Science Daily article, the groundbreaking research has the potential to help more than 200,000 people annually who experience nerve injuries or disease.

So far, the guide research has been limited to test in labs using rats with encouraging ten to twelve week results leading to improved walking ability.  “The exciting next step would be to implant these guides in humans” according to the study’s lead researcher Michael McAlpine, a University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor. McAlpine said there could someday be a “library of  scanned nerves from other people or cadavers that hospitals could use to create closely matched 3D-printed guides for patients.