Scientists have created a potentially revolutionary 3D-printed device that could one day help spinal cord patients in California recover some bodily functions. The device was developed by a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota, and their findings were published Aug. 9.
The silicone device is a 3D-printed guide designed to hold neuronal stem cells, which are also printed on a 3D printer. The guide and stem cells are implanted into an injured spinal cord, where they serve as a bridge connecting the living nerve cells on both sides of the injured area. The connection could help patients regain some bodily functions, such as control of the bladder, bowel and certain muscles. It could also help reduce a patient’s pain.
According to the researchers, the most difficult part of the project was developing a way to keep the stem cells alive during the 3D-printing process. In the end, they were able to create a process that keeps 75 percent of the cells viable. The researchers noted that even small improvements in function, such as the recovery of bladder control, could be life-altering for spinal cord patients. Around 75,000 Americans suffer spinal cord injuries each year. Currently, there are approximately 285,000 spinal cord patients living in the U.S.
Car accidents are a common cause of spinal cord injuries. Victims of such injuries may benefit from contacting auto accident injury lawyers for legal advice. The lawyers could evaluate the case and explain all legal remedies available. If a personal injury lawsuit is recommended, legal counsel could help prepare the claim and work to obtain a fair settlement.