Doctors and scientists have long been using metals to replace broken bones, but new research from scientists in Italy shows that wood can be transformed into a more effective material that is very similar to human bone. Wood was chosen as a starting point because it already closely resembles the structure of bone, and after 10 days under pressure and heat in a furnace, it becomes a chalky porous material with bone-like properties. This could be a huge leap forward for people suffering from bone loss or traumatic injuries, and what’s even better, it all comes from a natural material – wood!

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Researchers at the Istec Laboratory of Bioceramics in Faenza near Bologna, lead by Dr. Anna Tampieri, have been studying different types of wood to see which one would result in the most bone-like structure. They place pieces of normal wood into a furnace and heat them under pressure for 10 days, resulting in a white porous material. The researchers have found that rattan wood, often used to make furniture, creates the best bone substitute material because it has a similar porosity to bone, which allows blood, nerves and other compounds to travel through it.

Studies in which surgeons have placed the bone substitute into sheep, and so far the results show great promise. The bone begins to fuse with the sheep’s bone and after some time, it’s impossible to even see where the two are joined. And unlike other bone substitutes like metals and ceramics, this new material is just as strong and will most likely never need to be replaced. The researchers plan to start using this new material within 5 years on humans and have great hope that a natural, cheap and effective replacement for bones is now possible.

Via BBC News

Photos via BBC Video