New 3D-printed guides 'can help to restore damaged nerves'

Engineering

A new type of 3D-printed device has been developed that could help repair the nerve damage associated with many types of traumatic injury.

Developed at the University of Sheffield, the new 3D-printed nerve guidance conduit (NGCs) consists of a framework of tiny tubes that can guide the damaged nerve ends towards each other, allowing them to repair themselves naturally.

“UK researchers have created a new 3D printed guide that can help nerves damaged in traumatic incidents repair themselves.“

NGCs are already used in surgical applications but up to now could only be made using a limited range of materials and designs. By contrast, the new devices are crafted using computer-aided design and then fabricated via laser direct writing.

As such, the new NGCs can be adapted for any type of nerve damage or tailored to an individual patient. Early tests have demonstrated the effectiveness of this method in mouse models.

John Haycock, professor of bioengineering at Sheffield, said: "The advantage of 3D printing is that NGCs can be made to the precise shapes required by clinicians. We've shown that this works in animal models, so the next step is to take this technique towards the clinic."

This underlines the significant potential 3D printing can offer in the field of medical technology, as the technique creates new opportunities for the development of devices that are tailored to an individual's needs and physiology.

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