Neural repair following peripheral nerve damage is limited, often necessitating surgical autografts to bridge injury gaps. However, autografts are not always readily available, and are associated with side effects when sourced from donors. In recent years, the use of nerve guidance conduits (NGCs) has been explored as an alternative option for enabling peripheral nerve regeneration. While promising, current designs are not as efficacious as autografts and are limited by a narrow range of options for materials and designs.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering have created a new technique for producing 3D printed NGCs for peripheral nerve regeneration. Polyethylene glycol, a clinically approved material, was used to print the guides according to designs formulated using customizable computer aided design (CAD). A type of 3D printing called laser direct writing was used to fabricate the NGCs, which consist of a scaffold of small tubes that direct the regrowth of injured nerves.
The team tested the ability of the 3D printed NGCs to repair injured nerves in an animal model of nerve injury and found that the guides enabled nerve repair across an injury gap of 3 mm over 21 days. This study serves as an important preclinical proof of principle for clinical translation. The advantages of these 3D printed NGCs over previous conventional guidance channels are that 3D printing enables adaptation on a case by case basis and regeneration is comparable to that seen with grafts. The team is also testing the ability of these NGCs to restore nerve function over larger gaps as well as the use of biodegradable raw materials.
Here’s a video about the 3D printing process:
Study in Biomaterials: Nerve guides manufactured from photocurable polymers to aid peripheral nerve repair
Source: University of Sheffield