February 29, 2024

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Revolutionising Nerve Repair: 4D-Printed Smart Gel Sheets for Surgical Conduits

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru have developed a new smart gel-based sheet produced through three-dimensional (3D) printing technology. It can self-roll into a tube shape during surgical procedures to form a nerve conduit. Its implementation could help reduce the complexity of surgeries and aid the rapid healing of nerve injuries.

Autografts remain the preferred method for treating peripheral nerve injuries. Autografts refer to the surgical procedure of using a patient’s own tissue for transplantation, rather than using tissue from another individual or a synthetic substitute. There is an ongoing exploration of bioresorbable polymer-based conduits as potential alternatives for clinical use. However, these treatment options have various drawbacks, such as donor site morbidity associated with autografts and the necessity for sutures that demand highly skilled microsurgeries, and additional complications posed by sutures.

The 3D printing process involves creating a virtual model of the part using design software, and the part is then fabricated using a 3D printer by layer-upon-layer deposition of the material. This technology also falls under the umbrella of “4D printing,” where time is considered the additional dimension, as the printed parts can undergo shape changes on demand following their fabrication.

The team at IISc, led by Kaushik Chatterjee, engineered a bi-layered gel sheet by 3D printing in pre-defined patterns from two gels. The gel formulations were selected to have different swelling properties. When the dried gel sheet was immersed in water, it quickly swelled and curved into a tube shape. The folding behaviour and final shape of the gel could be precisely programmed to generate tubes of specific dimensions, which could be predicted by computational modelling. Additionally, thin nanometer-scale fibres were applied to the gel sheets to enable cells in the body to attach to them.

The researchers at IISc collaborated with researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology at Roorkee and others to test the 4D-printed conduits for repairing and regenerating a 2 mm gap in the sciatic nerve of rats. The shape-morphing sheets were placed underneath the damaged section of the nerve and then stimulated to wrap around the defect site to form a conduit around the nerve without the need for sutures. The nerve endings were able to grow through the implanted conduit, leading to a significant improvement in nerve regeneration within 45 days of using the 4D-printed nerve conduits.

The team published their findings in a paper featured in Advanced Healthcare Materials. The project was supported by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a Department of Science and Technology statutory body, under the Intensification of Research in High Priority Areas (IRHPA) special call on 3D Bioprinting.

Even though 4D-printed parts have not yet been used in clinical settings, emerging technologies such as these have the potential to usher in a new era of medical devices that surgeons can utilise during procedures to repair nerves and other tissues. They offer several advantages, including reduced surgical complexity, deployment through minimally-invasive techniques, and shorter recovery periods. As a result, these new technologies could revolutionise the way that nerve injuries and other medical conditions are treated in the future.

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Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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