Using 3D Technology
to Regenerate
Complex Nerves

As 3D printing gains pace in the medical field, a nationalteam of researchers has announced the development a groundbreaking 3D-printed guide that helps regrow both the sensory and motor functions of complex nerves after injury.

Nerve regeneration is a complex process, and so regrowth of nerves and regaining full motor sensory function after injury or disease is very rare. Nerve damage is often permanent. Recently, however, researchers used a combination of 3D imaging and 3D printing techniques to create a custom silicone guide implanted with biochemical cues tohelp regenerate complex nerves.

While regrowth of linear nerves has been achieved in the past, this is the first time a custom guide has been created in order to regrow a complex nerve – like the Y-shaped sciatic nerve – with both sensory and motor branches.

The guide’s effectiveness was tested in the lab using rats. The first step was to use a 3D scanner to reverse engineer the structure of a rat’s sciatic nerve. The team then used a specialized,custom-built 3D printer to print a guide for regeneration. The guide, which incorporated 3D-printed chemical cues to promote motor and sensory nerve generation, was then implanted into the rat by surgically grafting it to the cut ends of the nerve. Withinabout 10-12 weeks, the rat’s ability to walk again was improved.

Lead researcher, Prof. Michael McAlpine of the University of Minnesota Mechanical Engineering Department, said that the next step would be to implant the guide into humans, rather than rats. He added, “Someday we hope that we could have a 3D scanner and printer right at the hospital to create custom nerve guides right on site to restore nerve function.”

Infant Sleep Safety
Still Misunderstood
by Many Caregivers

Even though most caregivers agree on the importance of safe infant sleep practices, many of them may not know what to do – or what not to do – to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers questioned caregivers of newborns at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City about sleep safety, and found that 53 percent of them disapproved of using pacifiers – which are in fact linked to a lower risk of SIDS – and 62 percent believed in swaddling infants – which is tied to an increased SIDS risk.

Nationwide, SIDS kills about four babies out of every 10,000 live births, down from about 130 in 10,000 in 1990, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the dramatic decline in death from SIDS since 1992, when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced that babies should be placed on their backs to sleep, SIDS in recent years has remained the third leading cause of infant mortality.

Nearly four years ago, the AAP issued new infant sleep guidelines for preventing SIDSand other sleep-related deaths. The guidelines encouraged breastfeeding, pacifier use, and firm crib mattresses, and cautioned against blankets, pillows and bed-sharing. The study by lead study author Dr. Sarah Varghese suggests that some parents have absorbed these recommendations.

The findings highlight the challenge of conveying safe sleep practices to parents who may be overwhelmed by too much advice. Even if parents have been made aware of safe sleep information, they are often exposed to competing and conflicting information and advice coming from from multiple sources, including books, magazines, family and friends, and the internet.

Antibacterial Soaps
Fail to Beat Plain Soap

When it comes to ridding your hands of bacteria, plain old soap is just as good as many “antibacterial” soaps, new research contends.

Lab tests conducted by a team of Korean researchers revealed that when bacteria are exposed to the standard over-the-counter antibacterial ingredient known as triclosan for hours at a time, theantiseptic formulation is a more potent killer than plain soap. However, people wash their hands for a matter of seconds, not hours, and thus in real-world tests, the research team found no evidence to suggest that normal hand-washing with antibacterial soap does any more to clean the hands than plain soap.

“[The] antiseptic effect of triclosan depends on its exposure concentration and time,” explained study co-author Min Suk Rhee.

However, Rhee noted, most people who wash their hands with antibacterialsoap
do so for less than 30 seconds, using formulations containing less than 0.3 percent triclosan – the maximum allowed by law. And that combination, he said, is “not adequate for having an antibacterial effect.”

Triclosan is the antibacterial componentof liquid soap, as opposed to bar formulations, which use triclocarban, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These ingredients have been somewhat controversial. Although the FDA has said that there isn’t sufficient proof that triclosan is unsafe, the FDA cautioned that animal studies have raised concerns that the antiseptic may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor with the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, said that “this study clearly reinforces the common sense notion that soap and water work just fine. The FDA has raised concerns about the safety of triclosan, and this study shows it may not provide any benefit anyway.