3-D printed guides can help restore function in damaged nerves


Breast cancer cellScientists at the Univ. of Sheffield have succeeded in using a 3-D printed guide to help nerves damaged in traumatic incidents repair themselves.

The team used the device to repair nerve damage in animal models and say the method could help treat many types of traumatic injury.

The device, called a nerve guidance conduit (NGC), is a framework of tiny tubes, which guide the damaged nerve ends towards each other so that they can repair naturally.

Patients with nerve injuries can suffer complete loss of sensation in the damaged area, which can be extremely debilitating. Current methods of repairing nerve damage require surgery to suture or graft the nerve endings, a practice which often yields imperfect results.

Although some NGCs are currently used in surgery, they can only be made using a limited range of materials and designs, making them suitable only for certain types of injury.

The technique, developed in Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering, uses computer aided design (CAD) to design the devices, which are then fabricated using laser direct writing, a form of 3-D printing. The advantage of this is that it can be adapted for any type of nerve damage or even tailored to an individual patient.

Researchers used the 3-D printed guides to repair nerve injuries using a novel mouse model developed in Sheffield’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health to measure nerve regrowth. They were able to demonstrate successful repair over an injury gap of 3 mm, in a 21-day period.

“The advantage of 3-D printing is that NGCs can be made to the precise shapes required by clinicians,” says John Haycock, professor of bioengineering at Sheffield. “We’ve shown that this works in animal models, so the next step is to take this technique towards the clinic”.

The Sheffield team used a material called polyethylene glycol, which is already cleared for clinical use and is also suitable for use in 3-D printing. “Further work is already underway to investigate device manufacture using biodegradable materials, and also making devices that can work across larger injuries,” says Dr. Frederik Claeyssens, senior lecturer in biomaterials at Sheffield.

“Now we need to confirm that the devices work over larger gaps and address the regulatory requirements,” says Fiona Boissonade, professor of neuroscience at Sheffield.

Source: Univ. of Sheffield

Harvard’s Robobee learning to fly


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October 9, 2012

Harvard researchers are developing a feedback controller that should allow the Robobee to ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvard researchers are developing a feedback controller that should allow the Robobee to hover and perform controlled fligh

Harvard researchers are getting closer to their goal of developing a controllable micro air vehicle called the Robobee. The tiny robot was already capable of taking off under its own power, but until now it was completely out of control. By adding two control actuators beneath its wings, the robot can be programmed to pitch and roll.

The team is now working on a feedback controller that will allow the robot to yaw, which when combined with pitch and roll should allow it to hover. Until then, the Robobee is still just crashing, albeit in more spectacular fashion than it did before. Eventually, it could be mass-produced to perform pollination or assist in search and rescue operations (along with a variety of other things).

Harvard's micro aerial vehicle could be used to artificially pollinate crops, assist searc...

Meanwhile, the Green Brain project underway at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex in England may provide the necessary artificial intelligence for such a robot. The ambitious project seeks to build a working simulation of a bee’s brain by mapping the complex neural connections that process the bee’s senses. This simulation could then be harnessed, enabling a robot to make navigational decisions on its own.

“Because the honey bee brain is smaller and more accessible than any vertebrate brain, we hope to eventually be able to produce an accurate and complete model that we can test within a flying robot,” said Dr James Marshall, a computer scientist at the University of Sheffield.

However, it seems unlikely that the two projects will be compatible any time soon. Simulating even an insect’s brain requires some intense hardware – in this case, the researchers are working with NVIDIA graphics cards normally reserved for the latest video games. It will be awhile before that kind of processing power can be carried on Robobee’s miniscule frame. You can see it performing some in-flight maneuvers in the video below.

Sources: Harvard Robobees and University of Sussex via IEEE Spectrumand BBC