Spinal cord injuries are often permanent and life changing injuries with limited options available for treatment. With the aid of the latest 3D printing technology, a Cambridge (MA) based company InVivo Therapeutics has developed a biocompatible polymer scaffold to provide support to a damaged spinal cord. This custom made plastic support structure is preventing the scarring taking place following a serious spinal cord injury and the company is now building a facility of 46 3D printers to commercialize this technology.
The innovations within the medical industry are often divided into bio-printing and “traditional” 3D printing, whereby the former is artificially constructing living tissue by outputting several layers of living cells and the latter producing the solid structures out of metal or plastic for example a prosthetic limb.
InVivo’s ambitious goal is to combine these two methods in the final stage of product development by providing a biocompatible polymer scaffolding device seeded with autologous human neural stem cells to treat acute and chronic spinal cord injuries.
This is great news for both patients and medical establishments wanting to save on treatment costs while improving the treatment results. Whereas currently only a small number of people ever regain full functionality after a spinal injury and the cost of care can exceed $1m during the first year alone, InVivo Therapeutics claims that their unit will cost between $60,000-$100,000 — with improved results.
InVivo Technologies is tapping into a very lucrative market that is estimated to be in excess of $10 billion as well as making a considerable change to people’s lives. MIT Professor Robert Langer, who has been directly involved with the development of the technology, commented at the recent American Chemical Society: “You see dramatic differences in the abilities of test animals (rats and monkeys) to walk. We hope to begin clinical trials in the next year.”
We will keep a close eye on their development so stay tuned!
(All images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net )