3D-printed spinal cords able to promote nerve growth could help heal spinal cord injuries.
The 3D-printed scaffolds feature tiny channels only 200μm wide that align the axons as they regenerate along the length of the spinal cord injury. According to Co-senior author Shaochen Chen, PhD, the channels prevent the axons from diffusing, which they tend to do naturally, and ensure they grow correctly to complete the spinal cord connection. The team can create implants two millimeters in size in just 1.6 seconds—which were successfully implanted in rats to significantly improve motor function. The process can also be scaled up to sizes appropriate for humans, allowing for personalized implants regardless of their size or shape.