A team of brilliant scientists from Italy have discovered a solution to the problem of bone replacement. Their solution? Simply turn wood into bone. It sounds far fetched, but the first transplants have already taken place using a new technique that calcifies and hardens the wood into something entirely indistinguishable from bone.
For years those wishing to get a replacement hip or other bones had to resort to a combination of steel and ceramics. Often these objects can interact with the replacement limbs in ways that can cause serious complications. One 97 year old man who had received a hip replacement only had it for less than a year before he found it very difficult to move his hip due to a series of complications. Despite the fact that the implant was made of highly durable titanium, it had been damaged during his daytime movements, and in addition the area around the bone where the screws had been put in had also been damaged. The doctors who had implanted the hip were sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars and a new replacement had to be surgically implanted. Most of the problems arising from this incident were due to the fact that the hip replacement had been made of an unnatural material that didn’t mimic bone.
Finally it seems a new technique will let us quite literally grow replacement bones that can be implanted when we need them. The Istec laboratory of bioceramics in Faenza has been developing the technique’s manufacturing process as well as a method for implanting the bones in sheep. And the project has met with huge success.
Today the sheep who have had their bones replaced by the new wooden bones have virtually no differences in them. Months after the manufactured bones were implanted in the sheep, they were examined and a marked fusion had taken place between the bones that had been put there and the bones that were already present. Cells from one had migrated to the other, and there was no joint showing where one ended and the other began. Only under close scrutiny and analysis would it even be possible to discover which was the original bone and which was the replacement. It seems this new technology is blazing a whole new field in medical technology.
And the process to create the bones isn’t terribly complex either. Wood is taken from the rattan tree and put into a furnace to harden it. Pieces are then chopped up into smaller pieces and calcium and carbon are added. It’s all a matter of ratios as the bones eventually harden into a form that will eventually even be able to heal within the body. The porous surface will allow blood vessels and nerve endings to cling to and through the material. As of now the technology is a mere five years from being fully approved for human use. After five years, however, bone replacement will be much cheaper, more convenient, and much easier to recover from.