Repairing Nerves with 3D Printed Guides
There are many applications for 3D printing, and not least among them are medical uses such as specialized scaffolds that direct and promote cell growth. Researchers at the University of Sheffield have recently printed a nerve guidance conduit (NGC) which is able to guide nerve ends to repair naturally. This could have an enormous impact on future treatments for various traumatic injuries.
Normally repairing nerve damage involves surgery that sutures or grafts endings together, which tends to produce imperfect results. The use of an NGC however can improve results, as its framework of tubes guide nerve ends to toward each other for natural repairs. Some are already used in surgery, but they are limited in design and materials, which naturally restricts the injuries they can be used to treat. By using Computer Aided Design (CAD) and a form of 3D printing (laser direct writing) the Sheffield researchers are able to craft NGCs for any kind of nerve damage, and even tailor designs for specific patients.
The researchers have tested their NGCs using a novel mouse model and shown that they were able demonstrate a repair over an injury gap of 3 mm in just three weeks. With more work the printed NGCs could be made to repair larger injuries, and be made from biodegradable materials.
Source: University of Sheffield