A group of engineers and medical researchers from the University of Minnesota have created a 3D printed device that might just aid patients who have suffered long-term spinal cord injuries regain some of their functions.
A guide, which is 3D printed and made out of silicone, serves as the base for specialized cells that are then 3D printed on top. These cells are harvested from the patient themselves, in order to avoid rejection from the body. In order to reprogram the cells into neuronal stem cells, the scientists have used bioengineering techniques.
The guide would then be surgically implanted into the affected area and it would serve as a bridge, uniting the nerve cells above and below the injury.
Credit: College of Science and Engineering, UMN
The guides in question can be 3D printed on the exact measurements necessary for each patient and the bridge will supposedly help reduce the pain and allow the patients to recover some of the functions they lost due to the injury, such as muscle control and bladder functions.
Research is still ongoing but so far the results have been positive and if they continue in the same way, the procedure could give hope to thousands of people, as it is estimated that in the U.S alone, there are around 285,000 patients who suffer of spinal cord injuries.