The healing of spinal cord injuries may be a little closer. Scientists from the San Diego School of Medicine, a member of the University of California, have successfully completed a clinical study in rodents with which they have succeeded in proving the effectiveness of a revolutionary technique. Your tool? A 3D printer, a technological advance that is called to be part of the history of Medicine. Using one, they have managed to create an artificial spine, have "loaded" it with stem cells and then successfully implanted it in mice. The great triumph is that the implant has managed to stimulate the growth of nerve endings in damaged areas, restoring lost connections and functionalities. The authors of the study, published today by the journal "Nature Medicine", say that the technique is ready to be tested in humans.
Those responsible have observed that tissue has grown back around the artificial spine that was implanted in the rats that participated in the trial. And not only that, but they have carried out another very important achievement: the survival of the stem cells that were introduced in this structure. These neural stem cells or axons managed to "leave" the implant and were installed in the spine of these animals. These axons are extensions of the nerve cells that make them connect with other cells. "This is fundamental to try to restore physical function", points to "Nature Medicine"One of the co-authors of the text, Mark Tuszynski, professor of Neuroscience and director of the Translational Neuroscience Institute at the San Diego School of Medicine.
The implant contains dozens of tiny channels about 200 micrometers wide (about twice the length of a human hair) that guide neural stem cells along the entire surface of the spine that is damaged. The implants designed for rodents are about two millimeters, and They can be printed in just 1.6 seconds. This supposes a beastly shortening in the times since, until now, the process of construction of much less complex structures than these artificial spines extended during several hours. Scientists estimate that replicas in humans will be about four centimeters (although the exact size will depend on the injury), and may be printed in about ten minutes.
A few months after the operation had taken place, the tissue that had been produced around the implant completely covered the surroundings of the injured area and had been connected through several terminations with the spine. This resulted in the rodents recovering significantly motor function in the hind legs. In addition, the circulatory system of the rats managed to penetrate inside the implant to form functional junctions with the blood vessels, which contributed to the survival of these stem cells.
"This is another key step towards clinical trials that will help repair human spinal cord damage. The implant provides a stable physical structure that provides consistency to the graft and helps the survival of neural stem cells. It resembles a shield that protects them from the toxic and inflammatory environment of wounds in the spine and helps guide the axons, "adds Kobi Koffler, co-author of the study and assistant in the Tuszynski laboratory.