Researchers from Saint Petersburg state University have developed a 3D printing technology for soft neuroprostheses called NeuroPrint, which in the future can help literally put a person on their feet after a spinal cord injury. The new development has already shown its effectiveness in studies on mammals and fish Danio-rerio. The results are published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
According to the world health organization, more than a billion people, or about 15% of The world's population, have various forms of disability. In addition, every year up to half a million people get spinal cord injuries, which are often accompanied by loss of sensitivity and ability to walk, as well as disorders of internal organs.
To find ways to restore people with disabilities to health, researchers are developing invasive neuroprostheses that can conduct an electrical signal to the spinal cord and brain and restore lost functions.
One of the main problems faced by doctors and scientists is the adjustment of neuroprostheses to the surrounding nerve tissues of a person. Despite the biocompatible elastic materials, it is not always possible to quickly adapt the device to the anatomical and age characteristics of the patient.
The solution to this problem was proposed by a team of scientists led by Professor Pavel Musienko from the Institute of translational Biomedicine of St. Petersburg State University and Professor Ivan Minev from the University of Sheffield (Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, University of Sheffield). They have developed a new 3D printing technology that allows you to quickly produce individual neuroimplants for restoring and monitoring motor functions and internal organs in cases of nervous system damage.
This personalized approach is made possible by NeuroPrint hybrid 3D printing technologies. First, the printer creates the geometry of the future neuroimplant made of silicone, which also serves as an insulating material. Then microparticles of platinum or other electrically conductive element of the implant are applied to the base. After that, the surface is activated using cold plasma.
Moreover, the number and configuration of electrodes in the neuroimplant can be changed, getting devices for implantation in the tissues of the spinal cord, brain or muscles. The average production time from creating a project to getting a prototype can be as little as 24 hours.
"Thanks to this technology, the process of creating neuroimplants can significantly accelerate and reduce the cost," said Pavel Musienko, MD, head of the neuroprosthesis laboratory at the Institute of translational Biomedicine of St. Petersburg State University.
"Given the compact size of the equipment and the versatility of the approach, it is possible that in the future it will be possible to manufacture individual neuroimplants for a specific patient directly in the hospital, fully following the principles of personalized medicine and reducing the cost and delivery time as much as possible."
Neuroscientists have already used NeuroPrint technology to conduct research on various model objects — mammals and Danio-rerio fish. They were able to demonstrate that the new neuroimplants have a high level of bio-integration and functional stability, and are not inferior to their counterparts in working with the restoration of motor functions of the limbs and control of bladder functions.
In addition, the researchers were able to print soft implants that are similar in shape and mechanical characteristics to the outer connective tissue membrane of the brain. This is an important achievement, since many scientific experiments cannot be carried out due to too rigid neural implants that do not fit the soft structures of nervous tissue, and this also limits their use in clinical practice.
"We tested the development in experiments on free — moving rats for chronic leads of electrocortical signals of the cerebral cortex — this is a necessary element of the neurocomputer interface," Pavel Musienko said. — And in experiments on paralyzed animals, electrical stimulation of neural networks effectively restored locomotor function. Thus, NeuroPrint technology opens up new opportunities for both basic research of the Central nervous system and for neuroprosthetics in diseases and injuries."
The study involved scientists from St. Petersburg state University, Institute of physiology named after I. P. Pavlov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian scientific center of radiology and surgical technologies of a name of A. M. Published in St.-Petersburg research Institute of Phthisiopulmonology, Ministry of healthcare of the Russian Federation, Ural Federal University, Dresden technical University (Germany) and the University of Sheffield (UK).
The research was supported by grants from Saint Petersburg state University, the European research Council, the Dresden technical University, the Russian Foundation for basic research, the German research society (DFG), and the Volkswagen Foundation.
Photo - Pavel Musienko, head of the laboratory of neuroprostheses At the Institute of translational Biomedicine, St. Petersburg State University, doctor of medical Sciences, Professor