As 3D printing technology has gained traction in the medical field, researchers were able to use the said technology to develop groundbreaking techniques to regenerate nerves for both motor and sensory functions.
Regenerating nerves is a complicated process thus people with injuries involving nerves suffer from permanent damage. With the new technique, scientists hope to help more than hundreds of thousands of patients suffering from nerve diseases.
To regenerate nerves using the 3D printing technology, researchers used 3D imaging to create custom silicone guides that are implanted with biochemical compounds to encourage regeneration of complex nerves. The silicone guides were first tested in laboratory rats and scientists were able to regenerate the Y-shaped sciatic nerve with motor and sensory branches. Within 10 to 12 weeks, the rats were able to walk again.
Professor Michael McAlpine from the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Minnesota noted that this technology can be used to regenerate nerve tissues among human patients in the future.
He also added that a library of scanned nerves should also be created for nerves that are unavailable for scanning. This is very important among patients whose nerves are difficult to scan due to extensive or increasing damage. With the library of scanned nerves available to the medical researchers, hospitals can create matched 3D printed guides for patients.
3D printing technology provides a lot of innovations in the field of medicine and with the newly developed technology, people suffering from nerve damage can now become hopeful that they can once again improve the quality of their lives.