There is a lot of research about nerve regeneration being made and significant progress has been made. A team of researchers from various American universities have worked on a project to develop a guide which will help complex nerves to regrow. They’ve created it by using a 3D printer. Nerve damage is usually permanent and by using advanced 3D printing methods the situation might change. This new study used 3D imaging and printing techniques to create a guide made out of silicone with biochemical cues that help nerves regenerate.
Until now, the effectiveness of the 3D printed guide was tested only on lab rats. They’ve selected the rats sciatic nerve and 3D scanned it to create its image. With a custom built 3D printer, they’ve printed the guide in a ‘Y’ shape to include both sensory and motor branches of the sciatic nerve. The guide was surgically implanted into the rat by cutting its sciatic nerve and connecting the guide to the ends of the cut nerve. It took the rat about 12 weeks to regain the ability to walk, although not completely. “This represents an important proof of concept of the 3D printing of custom nerve guides for the regeneration of complex nerve injuries,” said professor of mechanical engineering Michael McAlpine from the University of Minnesota.
Custom guides for nerve reconstruction were previously made only for linear nerves, but this 3D printed guide is the first one made for a more complex nerve. Scientists wish to be able in the future to better customize the 3D printer to be able to create guides for human nerves.