Engineers and medical researchers at the University of Minnesota have teamed up to create a groundbreaking 3D-printed device that could someday help patients with long-term spinal cord injuries regain some function.
A 3D-printed guide, made of silicone, serves as a platform for specialized cells that are then 3D printed on top of it. The guide would be surgically implanted into the injured area of the spinal cord where it would serve as a type of “bridge” between living nerve cells above and below the area of injury. The hope is that this would help patients alleviate pain as well as regain some functions like control of muscles, bowel and bladder.
The research is published online today in Advanced Functional Materials, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
“This is the first time anyone has been able to directly 3D print neuronal stem cells derived from adult human cells on a 3D-printed guide and have the cells differentiate into active nerve cells in the lab,” said Michael McAlpine, Ph.D., a co-author of the study and University of Minnesota Benjamin Mayhugh Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the University’s College of Science and Engineering.
“This is a very exciting first step in developing a treatment to help people with spinal cord injuries,” said Ann Parr, M.D., Ph.D., a co-author of the study and University of Minnesota Medical School Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and Stem Cell Institute. “Currently, there aren’t any good, precise treatments for those with long-term spinal cord injuries.”
There are currently about 285,000 people in the United States who suffer from spinal cord injuries, with about 17,000 new spinal cord injuries nationwide each year.
In this new process developed at the University of Minnesota over the last two years, researchers start with any kind of cell from an adult, such as a skin cell or blood cell. Using new bioengineering techniques, the medical researchers are able to reprogram the cells into neuronal stem cells. The engineers print these cells onto a silicone guide using a unique 3D-printing technology in which the same 3D printer is used to print both the guide and the cells. The guide keeps the cells alive and allows them to change into neurons. The team developed a prototype guide that would be surgically implanted into the damaged part of the spinal cord and help connect living cells on each side of the injury.
“Everything came together at the right time,” Parr said. “We were able to use the latest cell bioengineering techniques developed in just the last few years and combine that with cutting-edge 3D-printing techniques.”
Even with the latest technology, developing the prototype guides wasn’t easy.
“3D printing such delicate cells was very difficult,” McAlpine said. “The hard part is keeping the cells happy and alive. We tested several different recipes in the printing process. The fact that we were able to keep about 75 percent of the cells alive during the 3D-printing process and then have them turn into healthy neurons is pretty amazing.”
If the next steps are successful, the payoff for this research could be life-changing for those who suffer from spinal cord injuries.
“We’ve found that relaying any signals across the injury could improve functions for the patients,” Parr said. “There’s a perception that people with spinal cord injuries will only be happy if they can walk again. In reality, most want simple things like bladder control or to be able to stop uncontrollable movements of their legs. These simple improvements in function could greatly improve their lives.”
The Latest on: Spinal cord injury
via Google News
The Latest on: Spinal cord injury
- Epidural Stimulation can Benefit People With Spinal Cord Injury on September 18, 2018 at 1:37 pm
Study published in JAMA Neurology describes the improvements Putnam and three other research participants experienced in blood pressure and heart rate regulation during and after spinal cord epidural ... […]
- Regrowing neurons across scarred spinal tissue on September 18, 2018 at 8:12 am
... unveil a better understanding of the molecular underpinnings behind restoring sensation or movement after a spinal cord injury. People can injure their spinal cord after a sudden, traumatic blow t... […]
- Kurzrock awarded Department of Defense Spinal Cord Injury Research Program grant on September 17, 2018 at 12:01 pm
Eric Kurzrock, chief of pediatric urologic surgery at UC Davis, and his research team received a $785,000 Department of Defense (DOD) Spinal Cord Injury Research Program grant. Kurzrock developed a ne... […]
- Recovery of cardiovascular function in spinal-cord-injured people sustained following epidural stimulation training on September 17, 2018 at 11:46 am
All four participants had chronic, complete cervical spinal cord injury, persistent low resting blood pressure and blood pressure decrease when sitting up prior to receiving scES. "From a quality ... […]
- Epidural stimulation leads to recovery of cardiovascular function in spinal-cord-injured on September 17, 2018 at 8:05 am
"My whole life has opened up for me again!" Putnam said. A C4 spinal cord injury in 2009 left Putnam paralyzed from the neck down and suffering from chronic low blood pressure. She relied on medicatio... […]
- Robert Wickens facing 'very long road' after IndyCar crash injury on September 16, 2018 at 3:19 pm
which included multiple fractures - including to his spine - a pulmonary contusion and a spinal cord injury. Carlos Munoz has stood in for the Canadian in recent races and SPM co-owner Sam Schmidt ... […]
- Research Opportunity for Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury/Disorder Living in NJ Metro Area on September 14, 2018 at 7:52 pm
Kessler Foundation in West Orange, NJ is looking for individuals with spinal cord injury/disorder to participate in a new research study! Researchers are evaluating the benefits of a group educational ... […]
- Will's Pub throws a throwback cover show to benefit spinal cord injury victims on September 14, 2018 at 9:46 am
Cycle for SCI is a charity bike ride from New York City to Orlando in an effort to raise awareness and funding for research into spinal cord injuries. Co-founders Ciara O’Sullivan and Larissa Clifford ... […]
- A new spinal cord injury treatment is getting patients back on their feet on September 13, 2018 at 10:07 am
Matt Wetschler was bodysurfing at Ocean Beach in San Francisco when he went for a wave and didn’t come back up. Some other surfers saw his body floating like a log and pulled him ashore. He was lucky: ... […]
via Bing News