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3D printing shows potential to cure neurological diseases

Thanks to bio-inks developed by Dr. Griffith from the University of South Australia (UniSA)

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According to the University of South Australia’s (UniSA) materials engineer Associate Professor Matthew Griffith, ‘incurable’ diseases such as blindness, deafness, chronic pain, epilepsy, motor neuron disease, and Parkinson’s disease, could all be cured thanks to 3D printed bio-inks that sit inside the human body and restore damaged neurons.

Dr. Griffith and his team at UniSA’s Future Industries Institute are creating carbon-based biocompatible inks – 3D printed into soft flexible devices – that can be surgically implanted and electronically communicate with the neural network, on demand.

“The aim is to reprogram injury and diseases out of existence by printing cheap, electronic devices that can talk to our bodies in a language it understands,” said Dr. Griffith. “Damaged or misfiring neurons have catastrophic consequences, resulting in blindness, paralysis, and a whole host of neurological disorders that we have not been able to cure. We believe we can change this by developing clever, organic electronic inks, which we can 3D print into flexible devices that are able to talk to neurons, grow new nerve cells, and create artificial neural interfaces.”

Current technologies being deployed for neurological conditions and blindness include deep brain stimulation and artificial retinas. However, they have had limited success because the electrodes are made from hard, inflexible materials like metals and silicon that have poor biocompatibility.

According the University of South Australia, around three billion people suffer from neurological conditions worldwide; another 200 million are blind; and one in five people live with chronic pain. All are related to neurons misfiring, resulting in undesirable changes to the brain, senses, and behavior.

“To help guide our research, we talk to a lot of patients that are affected by these disorders, and a lot of clinicians trying to treat them. What we are all excited about as we work together on this journey is the potential to cure these diseases for the first time in human history,” said Dr. Griffith.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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