Abstract: Engineered nerve guidance conduits (NGCs) have been demonstrated for repairing peripheral nerve injuries. However, there remains a need for an advanced biofabrication system to build NGCs with complex architectures, tunable material properties, and customizable geometrical control. Here, a rapid continuous 3D-printing platform was developed to print customizable NGCs with unprecedented resolution, speed, flexibility, and scalability. A variety of NGC designs varying in complexity and size were created including a life-size biomimetic branched human facial NGC. In vivo implantation of NGCs with microchannels into complete sciatic nerve transections of mouse models demonstrated the effective directional guidance of regenerating sciatic nerves via branching into the microchannels and extending toward the distal end of the injury site. Histological staining and immunostaining further confirmed the progressive directional nerve regeneration and branching behavior across the entire NGC length. Observational and functional tests, including the von Frey threshold test and thermal test, showed promising recovery of motor function and sensation in the ipsilateral limbs grafted with the 3D-printed NGCs.

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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2018.04.001