Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – 3D Printed Implant Promotes Spinal Nerve Regeneration

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Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have created a 3D printed implant that promotes nerve cell growth in patients suffering from spinal cord injury. The implant is loaded with neural stem cells and works like a scaffold, supporting tissue regrowth out of the scaffold and into the host's spinal cord. The result of their research was recently published in Nature Medicine

 

“Like a bridge, it aligns regenerating axons from one end of the spinal cord injury to the other. Axons by themselves can diffuse and regrow in any direction, but the scaffold keeps axons in order, guiding them to grow in the right direction to complete the spinal cord connection,” said Shaochen Chen, PhD, professor of nanoengineering and a faculty member in the Institute of Engineering in Medicine at University of California San Diego.

A 3D printed, two-millimeter implant (slightly larger than the thickness of a penny) used as scaffolding to repair spinal cord injuries in rats. The dots surrounding the H-shaped core are hollow portals through which implanted neural stem cells can extend axons into host tissues.
A 3D printed, two-millimeter implant (slightly larger than the thickness of a penny) used as scaffolding to repair spinal cord injuries in rats. The dots surrounding the H-shaped core are hollow portals through which implanted neural stem cells can extend axons into host tissues.
Credit: University of California San Diego School of Medicine

 

From the University of California San Diego School of Medicine article: "Researchers grafted the two-millimeter implants, loaded with neural stem cells, into sites of severe spinal cord injury in rats. After a few months, new spinal cord tissue had regrown completely across the injury and connected the severed ends of the host spinal cord. Treated rats regained significant functional motor improvement in their hind legs.  

Additionally, the circulatory systems of the treated rats had penetrated inside the implants to form functioning networks of blood vessels, which helped the neural stem cells survive."

 

Read more about the 3D printed implant that promotes spinal nerve regeneration at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.