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Two researchers at Japan’s Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a remarkable new technology that can create bone tissue out of fish scales. Several processes currently exist that can form artificial bones currently exist, but they can often take up to six months. The time necessary to cultivate artificial bones out of a combination of fish scales and phosphate minerals, however, only takes three months.
Toshiyuki Ikoma and Junzo Tanaka wanted to find a new way to create artificial bone tissue to treat elderly patients who developed bone tumors. Naturally, older people take a longer time to heal, and artificial bone materials still pose some risk. Collagen from porcine dermis (i.e. the skin of pigs) can take up to 12 months to develop and there is also the risk of infecting humans with pig-borne viruses. Fish collagen, however, could be the ticket to healing severe bone fractures and skeletal diseases in the near future.
The artificial bones that Ikoma and Tanaka developed have high density and strength, and the fish-based bone integrates and becomes part of the artificial bone at a much faster rate than previous attempts. For now, the researchers have used tilapia as the collagen’s source because its scales have almost zero fat, provide pure collagen, and thankfully for lab workers, it has no fishy odor. According to Ikoma, fish scales could provide other health and medical benefits in the future, from new human corneas to artificial human tissue. Tilapia is becoming more important to our food supply — it can even be raised in the Bronx — but would patients be open to a paraphyletic leg or arm in the future?
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