Regenerating bones with materials of natural origin that can bear a lot of weight might not be science-fiction anymore. Scientists are looking for new ways to transform complex and organized structures that already exist in nature into a device to improve bone and ligament substitution.
The staggering similarities found with the bone brought the group of researchers working on the TEM-PLANT project to become the first one to use wood to develop organized and complex structures for tissue substitution and engineering.
Both the bone and the wood are, in fact, hard, solid and living elements with holes in their inside. At the Institute of Science and Technology for Ceramics in Faenza, Italy, a piece of red oakwood is placed into a special oven so that it becomes charcoal. The charcoal is made of carbon molecules and the real bone is mainly made of calcium. With the right pressure, temperature and chemicals scientists can modify the molecules of the probe – one by one – changing an entire piece of charcoal to a calcium based probe. “We want this material to regenerate the bone within the body and at the same time to be load-bearing, something that until now can only be achieved through metallic bars”, points out Anna Tampieri, scientific co-ordinator of the project.