First-of-its-Kind, 3D-Printed Nerve Regeneration Guide

Nerve regeneration is a complex process and regrowth of nerves after injury or disease is very rare. A national team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota has developed a first-of-its-kind, 3D-printed guide that helps regrow both the sensory and motor functions of complex nerves after injury. The research has the potential to help more than 200,000 people annually who experience nerve injuries or disease. The researchers used a 3D scanner to reverse engineer the structure of a rat's sciatic nerve. They then used a specialized, custom-built 3D printer to print a guide for regeneration. Incorporated into the guide were 3D-printed chemical cues to promote both motor and sensory nerve regeneration. The guide was then implanted into the rat by surgically grafting it to the cut ends of the nerve. Within about 10 to 12 weeks, the rat's ability to walk again was improved.