3D Printing Stem Cells for Treating Spinal Cord Injuries

By Dr. Matthew Watson

Statistics indicate that approximately 17,500 people suffer spinal cord injuries each year. Although these injuries can impact anyone, they are most commonly seen in younger men, primarily because these injuries are often driven by lifestyle choices that people may make. Yet, despite efforts to more effectively treat these spinal cord injuries and restore full quality of life, traditional medical treatments have largely been unsuccessful.

Due to this fact, medical professionals have increasingly turned their attention to stem cells and how these stem cells could be used to treat spinal cord injuries.

In short, there is no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord that doesnt include replacing the old cells, like with stem cells. However, there are some treatment options available as to prevent the injury becoming worse, especially immediately during or after the injury event. With any luck, some patients can return to an active and normal life through these means without having to resort to stem cells, which is still a clinical and expensive treatment.

Most of what can be done for a spinal cord injury is at the scene. These require the patient to remain motionless in order to prevent shock. Immobilizing the neck and spinal cord can help reduce further injury and complications, not to mention maintaining steady breathing. Surgery is often necessary for this type of injury. Some medication, particularly methylprednisolone, can be used, but the side effects of blood clots and illness usually outweigh the benefits.

In the long run, doctors make a priority to prevent problems with other parts of the body as a result of spinal cord injuries. Blood clots, respiratory infections, pressure ulcers and other issues have been known to arise.

Otherwise, rehabilitation is almost always recommended to rebuild muscle strength while in the early stages of recovery. Education on how to prevent further complications in day-to-day life is also given to patients with these types of injuries, along with learning new skills to help through their new situation.

With treatment for spinal cord injuries being severely limited, there is little wonder why doctors and researchers have turned to the idea of using stem cells to rebuild and replace damaged cells. However, these stem cells cant just be injected in any traditional sense. They need to be placed accurately in an environment where they can grow. This is where 3D printing comes in.

Recognizing the fact that traditional treatment methods have not been able to fully improve patients quality of life, medical professionals are shifting their attention to exploring stem cells and how stem cells can improve functioning for individuals with spinal cord injuries. The pioneering study in this sphere came out of the University of California San Diegos School of Medicine and Institute of Engineering.

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3D Printing Stem Cells for Treating Spinal Cord Injuries

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