Russia Develops 3D Printed Neuroprosthetics

  • The NeuroPrint technology would allow the hospitals to print devices that are tailored to each patient.
  • The technology has lower costs.
  • Neuroprosthetics is a discipline related to neuroscience and biomedical engineering concerned with developing neural prostheses.

Russian researchers from the Saint Petersburg State University have developed a 3D printing technology for soft neuroprosthetics  called NeuroPrint, which in the future can help literally put a person on their feet after a spinal cord injury. The information was released via the press release from SPBU.

Saint Petersburg State University (SPbU) is a Russian federal state-owned higher education institution based in Saint Petersburg. It is the oldest and one of the largest universities in Russia.

The study involved scientists from SPBU with the collaboration with the Pavlov Institute of Physiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences,  Granov Russian Scientific Center for Radiology and Surgical technologies, the St. Petersburg research Institute of Phthisiopulmonology of the Ministry of health of the Russian Federation, the Ural Federal University, the Dresden Technical University in Germany, and the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom.

The new development has already shown its effectiveness in studies on mammals and fish. The scientists 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, scientists 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 neural implants being too rigid that do not fit the soft structures of nervous tissue. This also limits their use in clinical practice.

One of the main problems faced by doctors and scientists is the adjustment of neuroprosthetics 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.

They have developed a new 3D printing technology that makes it possible to quickly produce individual neuroimplants for restoring and monitoring motor and internal organ functions in cases of nervous system damage.

Neural prostheses are a series of devices that can substitute a motor, sensory or cognitive modality that might have been damaged as a result of an injury or a disease. Cochlear implants provide an example of such devices.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1 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 suffer 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 neuroprosthetics that can conduct an electrical signal to the spinal cord and brain and restore lost functions.

This personalized approach is made possible by neuroprint hybrid 3D printing technologies. The bio-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. 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.

Overall, the new technology has lower costs and cuts the time needed for the neuroprothtetic production. In fact, it would be  produced directly in the hospital and tailed to each patient.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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