November 9, 2015

A national team of researchers has developed the worlds first 3D Printed Guide that assists in re-growth of  both the sensory and motor functions of complex nerves after injury.

The project was done in collaboration with scientist and doctors from University of Minnesota, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland, Princeton University, and Johns Hopkins University and the results were published today in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the Nerve regeneration is a complex process, because of its complexity, regrowth of nerves after injury or disease is extremely rare. Nerve damages more often than not are incurable and cause permanent disability, but now the scientist has proved that Advanced 3D printing methods could hold a possible cure for such patients.

To prove the proof of concept, a physically disabled rat was chosen as a test subject. The scientist used a specially designed 3D scanners and 3D Printers to create a custom silicone guide, 3D-printed chemical cues were added to the guide to promote both motor and sensory nerve regeneration. This was then implanted into the rat with surgically grafting it to the cut ends of the nerve. The operation was a extremely successful and the rat showed tremendous improvement in the way it walked within 10 to 12 weeks.

The Lead researcher of this medical breakthrough,  Michael McAlpine, a mechanical engineering professor from the University of Minnesota said “This represents an important proof of concept of the 3D printing of custom nerve guides for the regeneration of complex nerve injuries,”

Mr. McAlpine added that there have been previous instances that showed that regrowth of linear nerves was possible, but this is the first time that regrowth of a complex nerve like the Y-shaped sciatic nerve was made possible. This is extremely important as these nerve control both the sensory and motor branches in an animals body.

McAlpine added ‘”The exciting next step would be to implant these guides in humans rather than rats,” If the human testing is successful the 3d Printed Guide could assist as many as 200,000 people annually who experience nerve injuries or disease.

Source: University of Minnesota

Advanced Functional Materials