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3D printing could help spinal cord injury patients

California residents who are among the 285,000 Americans who suffer from spinal cord ailments may be excited to learn about a groundbreaking new device that has been created by University of Minnesota engineers. The device is a guide for printing 3D cells, and it could eventually be used to provide pain relief to spinal injury patients and possibly enable them to regain control of some muscle functions.

The research that led to the creation of a prototype 3D-printed guide that then prints 3D cells has been ongoing at the University of Minnesota for the past two years. The authors of the study, which was published on Aug. 9, say that this is a big first step that could pave the way for life-changing improvement for people with spinal cord injuries. The guide would work by being surgically implanted into the injured region of the spinal cord. After the surgery, it would help join living cells on either side of the injury. The researchers found that relaying signals between cells across the injury could boost functions for patients.

One researcher said that the hardest part of printing the delicate cells was then keeping them alive. But they were able to keep about 75 percent of the cells alive and then turn into healthy neurons. The authors say that this is the first time that such an experiment has been successful.

Spinal cord injuries can be catastrophic because they can cause partial or total paralysis, brain damage and other life-altering conditions. A person who suffers a spinal cord injury may be facing a lifetime of treatment as well as medical debt. Spinal cord injuries often happen to people who are involved in car accidents. Someone who is injured because of a driver's neglect has a right to seek compensation. In such a lawsuit, the amount of compensation awarded should be enough to compensate for pain and suffering as well as medical costs.

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