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.”
Receive an email update when we add a new SPINAL CORD INJURY article.
The Latest on: Spinal cord injury
via Google News
The Latest on: Spinal cord injury
- Spinal Cord Injury Could Throw Off Body’s Internal Clock, Study Shows on December 12, 2018 at 10:14 am
AUSTIN, Texas — Although paralysis is the most noticeable result of a spinal cord injury, a new study by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin suggests such injuries could throw off the int... […]
- 'Where I'm supposed to be': Manitobans head to Saskatchewan for spinal cord rehabilitation on December 12, 2018 at 9:09 am
In summer 2017, Dupuis started therapy at First Steps Wellness Centre, a charitable not-for-profit facility in Regina that focuses on spinal cord injury rehabilitation. Her family pays for the expensi... […]
- College student walks stage for graduation despite spinal injury on December 10, 2018 at 6:24 am
In 2015, Amenta suffered a spinal cord injury in a diving accident at a pool, WPLG reports. He became a quadriplegic, which made going to school very difficult. He considered dropping out of ... […]
- Spinal Cord Injury Could Throw Off Body's Internal Clock on December 9, 2018 at 9:42 pm
Spinal cord injuries were found to throw off the internal clock of the entire body's daily activities, from hormones to sleep-wake schedules, suggested researchers at The University of Texas at Austin ... […]
- Hyderabad: Apollo part of tests on spinal injuries on December 9, 2018 at 11:01 am
The number of people suffering from spinal cord injuries in India is estimated to be 5 lakh. Disability due to the injury results in inability to walk, bladder functioning is affected along with other ... […]
- CU study finds spinal injuries alter internal body clocks on December 9, 2018 at 9:05 am
"If we can improve or speed recovery of circadian rhythms after spinal cord injury, it is possible that this could reduce harm and improve repair." The study was conducted on rats with injuries to the ... […]
- Spinal Cord Injury Could Throw Off Circadian Rhythms on December 6, 2018 at 8:15 pm
Although paralysis is the most noticeable result of a spinal cord injury, a new study by researchers at The University of Texas (UT) at Austin suggests such injuries could throw off the internal clock ... […]
- New CU Boulder study shows how spinal injury impacts circadian rhythms on December 4, 2018 at 11:42 pm
In the hours and days following a spinal cord injury, the gears that control the body's internal clocks fall profoundly out of sync, impacting body temperature, hormone fluctuation, immunity and the t... […]
- Spinal injury throws body clocks off schedule on December 4, 2018 at 1:55 pm
Credit: Gaudet et al., JNeurosci (2018) In the hours and days following a spinal cord injury, the gears that control the body's internal clocks fall profoundly out of sync, impacting body ... […]
via Bing News