Could 3D-Printed Guides Enable Personalized Nerve Regeneration Therapy?

Using 3D printed nerve guidance conduits, University of Sheffield researchers have succeeded in helping nerves to repair themselves in vivo. Consisting of a framework of tiny tubes, the implants were used to guide the damaged nerve endings toward each other, but with a personalized touch that wasn’t previously possible.

The new method could more efficiently treat many traumatic injuries.

Damage to peripheral nerves is a relatively common problem that can lead to a complete loss of sensation in affected areas. Peripheral nerves have a limited ability to self-repair, which enables recovery in certain situations. Nerve damage like this is often treated via surgery, especially for injuries where more than a few millimeters of nerve tissue is lost. Autografting is an option in some cases, a limited amount of graft material can be harvested without causing a problem elsewhere in the body.

Sometimes nerve guidance conduits (NGCs) are used to mitigate the problems with autografting. These devices provide a template that guides the nerve cells growing from each end of the severed nerve until they reach each other in the middle. Existing NGCs are limited by several factors, including lack of suitable materials approved for use, and limited manufacturing methods, which result in general implant geometries. To overcome these limitations, researchers at the University of Sheffield have used 3D printing to provide a new, personalized alternative, according to a recent university press release. … (read more)