Osteo-Alchemy: Turning Wood into Bone

Anna Tampieri at the Institute of Science and Technology for Ceramics, Faenza, and colleagues have turned wood into bone mimics that could be used to repair damaged limbs. The Italian scientists were inspired by nature`s highly organised hierarchial structures to make porous hydroxyapatite scaffolds with structures similar to that of real bone. The scaffolds `pave the way for realising prosthetic devices which could get closer to the extraordinary performance of human tissues`, they claim.
The team heated the wood to decompose the organic parts that make up most of its weight, leaving behind the carbon template. They reacted the template first with calcium, then oxygen and then carbon dioxide to form calcium carbonate. Finally, they converted it to hydroxyapatite using a phosphate donor. The material keeps its original microstructure, exploiting the unique architectural properties of the wood`s cellular make-up, explains Tampieri. This means cells and blood vessels can grow through the structure and incorporate it into the original bone.

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