'Wooden' legs could be the next step for regenerative medicine

Maybe pirates were on to something with their wooden peg legs: Italian scientists say they may have found a way to regenerate bone from wood.

Researchers from the National Research Council of Italy used nanotechnology to transform rattan wood into biomimetic material with a strength and flexibility similar to natural bone, according to research recently published in the International Journal of Healthcare Technology and Management.

After chemical components such as cellulose and lignin are processed out of the rattan, the remaining carbon-based material reacts with calcium, oxygen and phosphate to make a porous, load-bearing material mechanically and chemically similar to bone. Unlike with metal alloy implants, the researchers say, the material is similar to bone in terms of strength, flexibility and density.

The researchers say their patented material is low cost, biocompatible with human tissue and can be integrated into existing bone to promote bone regeneration, according to an announcement.

The technology was developed by the Research Group on Biomaterials at the Institute of Science and Technology for Ceramics.

Similar to the way treated wood would be used as a scaffold to regenerate bone, researchers in Boston reported this summer they had built nanoscale scaffolds that not only can grow engineered human tissue, but can allow monitoring of the chemical and electrical activity after implantation in the body.

The electrical monitoring components are on a cellular scale and based on the human nervous system, according to the researchers from Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- here's the study

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