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A 3D Printing Model Helped a Nerve Regrow

CAD Drafting ServicesScientists have worked up the nerve to use 3D printing technology to help make advancements in the medical field. A group of researchers from the University of Minnesota, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland, Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University have been successful in creating new nerve tissue using a 3D printed guide that was implanted into a lab rat.

After scanning the sciatic nerve of a lab rat, researchers created a model that was used to create an identical 3D printed guide. The guide acts as a pathway for the sensory and motor functions of the nerves, encouraging them to grow back. It was made of silicone and saturated with biochemical cues that trigger motor and sensory nerve growth.

The researchers removed the sciatic nerve from a lab rat and surgically implanted the guide in its place. After 10-12 weeks, the nerve had regrown and the rat showed signs of improvement in its ability to walk. The scanning and printing process to create a 3D printed guide only takes about an hour, but the wait to see results can take up to 12 weeks.

The experiment’s success is the doorway to more research into how to use 3D printing to create nerve guides that can help with regeneration in cases of nerve injuries. The testing has currently only been done on lab rats. More development and extensive research will have to be done in order to accurately map the larger and more complicated nerve system in a human, but scientists hope it will become a reality sooner rather than later.

Researchers also hope that in the future, 3D scanners, printers and CAD drafting services will be in every hospital so that these nerve guides can be created onsite as a treatment option for someone with a nerve injury. There are currently few options in treating nerve damage. With thousands of people suffering from an injury or disease that leaves them with damage that causes chronic pain or paralyzation, there is a need for a viable treatment. Nerve grafts are complicated and can be painful. Nerve guidance chemicals use natural materials but can only be used on nerves that are in a straight line, therefore they won’t work on a nerve like the sciatic nerve.

The 3D printed guides have the potential to be a better option because they encourage natural regrowth and can grow in any shape that is needed. Researchers think that they could create a “library” of nerve scans collected from other patients in order to create guides for people who have such severe damage their own nerve can’t be used as a prototype.

There was research done in the past that regrew bundles of nerves in a lab, but this is the first time a complex nerve such as the sciatic nerve was recreated and regenerated. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It transmits the impulses between the central nervous system and its tissues. It’s responsible for movement and feeling in the lower body.

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