Rattan wood has been found to be almost identical to human bone tissue by scientists in Italy. At the Istec laboratory of bio-ceramics in Faenza near Bologna, where a herd of sheep have already been implanted with rattan bones.
To start to create these artificial bones you cut down a long tubular rattan wood piece so that it is in manageable pieces which is then chopped down to even smaller chunks so that they are ready for their complex chemical transformation.
In simple, non-scientific terms, the pieces of wood are heated in a furnace and then have carbon and calcium added. It is then heated again under intense pressure in another oven-like furnace where a phosphate solution is added. This whole process from start to finish will take approximately 10 days.
The team of scientists is lead by Dr Anna Tampieri who comments on the findings: “It’s proving very promising. This new bone material is strong, so it can take heavy loads that bodies will put on it. It is also durable, so, unlike existing bone substitutes, it won’t need replacing.”
Within months, the real and artificial bone will have fused. Several types of wood were tested before rattan. Of which rattan was the best. This is due to its structure and porous properties which would enable blood, nerves and other internal liquids to pass through it.
Dr Tampieri says it is the closest scientists have ever come to replicating the human bone because ‘it eventually fuses with the real bone, so in time, you don’t even see the join.’ The new bone is being closely studied at the Bologna University hospital.
In the sheep that have already had this surgery, particles of their bones are already migrating to the bone made from rattan. This could be a huge breakthrough for people who have had major trauma accidents or cancer as current alternatives can be weak and do not fuse with the existing bone. The new rattan bones could be a major step forward.
There have been no signs of rejection or infection in the sheep so natural, cheap, effective implants in humans could be just five years away thanks to rattan wood.