A paper detailing how a University of Sheffield research team succeeded in helping a damaged nerve repair itself using a 3D-printed guide has been published in the journal Biomaterials.
Katie Collins, Wired.co.UK:
The nerve guidance conduits (NGCs) have been successfully used in animals, and the research team believes they can now be used to treat traumatic injuries — such as those caused by chainsaw or car accidents — in humans.
The conduits consist of a framework of tiny tubes that guide damaged nerve endings towards one another in order to promote natural regeneration. They are created through a complex form of 3D printing that sees laser light building up tiny blocks of materials into a 3D solid structure.
The hope is that the conduits could be used to replace current methods of repairing peripheral nerve damage, which involve surgery to graft together the nerve endings. Not only does this often yield imperfect results that do not return sensation to damaged area, but it can also require two surgery sites.
This laser technique, on the other hand, is so precise that it allows the NGCs to be adapted for any nerve damage or for a specific patient. In the researchers’ tests on mice, they were able to demonstrate successful regrowth over a 21-day period to a 3mm nerve gap.
Read more at: 3D printed guides repair damaged nerves (Wired UK).