Researchers hope that a new device based on 3D printing technology could someday help car accidents victims in Georgia recover from spinal cord injuries, or SCIs. Engineers and medical researchers have created a silicone 3D-printed guide that supports specialized cells. The guide is designed to bridge the gap between living nerve cells above and below the injury site. It’s hoped that this special platform may be able to restore certain neurological and muscle functions when it’s surgically implanted.

Many of the nearly 20,000 new spinal cord injuries that occur each year in the United States involve damage sustained in motor vehicle accidents. The process researchers developed to help these SCI accident victims starts with any type of adult cells. Special bioengineering techniques then turn those cells into neuronal stem cells. 3D printing technology is then used to print both the silicone platform guide and the engineered cells. The purpose of the guide is to keep the cells alive so that they can become neurons.

After testing several different “recipes,” scientists reached a point where they were able to keep about 75 percent of the engineered cells alive during the 3D printing process. The team behind the device hopes that it can be used to help SCI survivors regain important functions, such as improved bladder control. Even if the ability to walk again isn’t restored, researchers note that many spinal cord injury patients appreciate smaller improvements with function just as much. For instance, linking neurons above and below the injury site may minimize issues with involuntary muscle movements in legs.

If a spinal cord injury resulted from a car accident caused by the negligence of another party, an attorney may help victims take steps to seek appropriate compensation. A lawyer may be able to prove fault by reviewing cellphone and traffic camera data, talking to witnesses and reviewing police reports. Any financial awards in such cases could help accident victims gain access to newer technology, like the 3D printed device discussed here, that might result in improvements with quality of life.