Italian Researchers Create Synthetic Bone from Wood

Heather Thompson

February 1, 2010

2 Min Read
Italian Researchers Create Synthetic Bone from Wood

A method for turning rattan wood into a substance that bonds with natural bone could soon be used to create transplant material for humans. Italian scientists, led by Anna Tampieri at the Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologia dei Materiali Ceramici (ISTEC) based in Faenza, Italy, created the material. The researchers start by cutting long tubular rattan wood into small pieces. Then, a complex chemical process fuses the material with phosphate and calcium.

After being heated in a furnace, the pieces are reheated under intense pressure in another machine similar to an oven. The end result is a material that is nearly identical to bone. Under a microscope, a cross section of the material has a similar structure to natural bone. After implantation, the small pores in the substance allow blood and nerves to migrate from surrounding bone.

Tampieri said the new bone material is strong, so it can withstand the heavy load of a human body. She also said that tests have demonstrated the materials’ durability, so, that “unlike existing bone substitutes, it won’t need replacing.”

The material is being used experimentally at Bologna University’s hospital, where orthopedic surgeons such as Maurillo Marcacci are monitoring its effects in sheep. X-rays of the sheeps’ legs indicate that particles from the sheeps’ own bones are migrating to rattan-based bone. Testing indicates that the real bone and the implant fuse within a few months into a continuous bone.

Observing no signs of rejection or infection in the sheep, the scientists hope that rattan presents a natural, inexpensive, and effective replacement for bones. The researchers note that implants into humans are about five years away.
In contrast to this artificial wood-based bone, existing bone substitutes such as metal, ceramic, or bones from cadavers all have their drawbacks, Marcacci noted. For people with major trauma injuries or cancer, the current range of alternatives is often limited. Materials currently available do not fuse with the existing bone. “A strong, durable, load-bearing bone is really the holy grail for surgeons like me and for patients,” he added.

Sign up for the QMED & MD+DI Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like