3D-Printed Nerve Stem Cells to Treat Spinal Cord Injuries


Novel 3D-printed device are loaded with neuronal stem cells, which can be implanted on damaged spinal cord

Spinal cord injury is difficult to recover due to several associated complications. Various treatments available include gene therapy, which has ability to break down scar tissue and regenerate nerve cells. Also, injury site can be bypassed altogether, rerouting messages from the brain through computers to a device implanted in the body. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have designed a device to accelerate the spinal cord treatment.

Team developed a silicone guide, which is covered in 3D-printed neuronal stem cells to implant into the injury site. The implant has ability to grow new connections between remaining nerves to allow patients regain motor control. As a part of the study, team collected induced pluripotent stem cells – a type of stem cell that’s derived from adult cells such as skin and blood. Furthermore, these cells were bioengineered into neuronal stem cells, the researchers were able to 3D print a device made up of alternating layers of silicone scaffold and neuronal stem cells.

This device could then be implanted at the site of a spinal injury, where the guide nurtures the stem cells until they’re able to grow new nerves, connecting the undamaged cells on either side of the injury. However, the implant is not been tested in patients or even animal models. Lab tests reported that the active neurons grow along the channels of the silicone guide. The team believe that this technique could offer potential treatment to patients in regaining important functions. The research was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials in August 2018.


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