Researchers create 3D printed stem cell-infused scaffolds for spinal cord repair
University of Minnesota researchers have broken new ground in the rapidly advancing field of 3-D printing: creating stem cell-infused scaffolds that could be implanted in spinal cords to repair nerve damage.
The technology has existed for years to print plastic implants containing live cells. But the challenge was to do so in a way that would allow sensitive “neuronal” stem cells to survive the printing process so they can repair nerve damage after transplant.
“No one has been able to print those stem cells where they differentiate into active nerve cells using a 3-D printer,” said Michael McAlpine, a U mechanical engineer who teamed up with Dr. Ann Parr, a neurosurgeon, to lead the research. “The cells have to survive the printing process.”
The team on Thursday reported a printing approach that allowed for 75 percent survival of neural progenitor cells, which are limited stem cells capable of producing brain cells. Results were published in Advanced Functional Materials, a prestigious technical journal. A university video demonstrates how the soft rubbery scaffold could be printed in layers along with hydrogel, a special ink that coats and preserves the stem cells. Read more