AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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3D-Printed Guide Helps Regrow Complex Nerves After Injury

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A team of researchers recently developed a 3D-printed guide that helps regrow both the sensory and motor functions of complex nerves after injury. The research, published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, describes a combination of 3D imaging and 3D-printing techniques used to create a custom silicone guide that was implanted with biochemical cues to help with nerve regeneration. In order to do so, researchers used a 3D scanner to reverse engineer the structure of a rat’s sciatic nerve. They then used a specialized, custom-built 3D printer to print a guide for regeneration. Incorporated into the guide were 3D-printed chemical cues to promote both motor and sensory-nerve regeneration. The guide was then implanted into the rat by surgically grafting it to the cut ends of the nerve. Within about 10-to-12 weeks, the rat’s ability to walk again was improved. “This represents an important proof of concept of the 3D printing of custom nerve guides for the regeneration of complex nerve injuries,” said the study’s lead researcher. “Someday we hope that we could have a 3D scanner and printer right at the hospital to create custom nerve guides right on site to restore nerve function.” This is the first time a study has shown the creation of a custom guide for regrowth of a complex nerve, such as the Y-shaped sciatic nerve that has both sensory and motor branches, and researchers are excited for the potential to one say implement this technology in humans. To read more about this study, click here.

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