Wood products used to build bone? Unfortunately, there aren’t many details in the Nov. 9, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,
European research has investigated ways of transforming complex, organised natural products such as wood to make materials suitable for rebuilding the human skeletal system.
The metamorphosis of wood to a ceramic that is identical to the mineral part of bone tissue hydroxyapatite takes place at the molecular or nano-level. The EU-funded ‘New bio-ceramisation processes applied to vegetable hierarchical structures’ (TEM-PLANT) project aimed to develop and apply novel processes to hierarchical materials like wood to produce smart ceramics that behave like bone and ligaments.
TEM-PLANT developed several types of materials with huge practical potential. These included bone scaffolding to help bone regrowth with properties very like the real thing. There is a strong possibility that the new scaffolding concept could make an appearance in the clinic in the next 5 to 10 years.
Success has also been achieved for that all-important soft skeletal tissue. The project team have shown in vivo that natural polymers can be processed to produce regenerative scaffolds for both ligaments and tendons.
At the molecular level, TEM-PLANT has investigated the very nuts and bolts of transforming hierarchically structured materials like wood. Chemo-physical phenomena have been identified behind the self-assembling and mineralisation processes required to achieve the modification of raw materials.
I did check out the TEM-PLANT/New Bio-ceramisation processes applied to vegetable hierarchical structures project webpage on the European Union’s Cordis website only to find out that the project ended in 2011,
TEM-PLANT project focuses on the development and application of breakthrough processes to transform plant-derived hierarchical structures into templates for the exploitation of innovative biomedical devices with smart anisotropic performances and advanced biomechanical characteristics, designed for bone and ligament substitution. Natural bio-structures usually have properties superior to those of analogous synthetically manufactured materials with similar phase compositions. The remarkable biomechanical properties of bone and ligament tissues depend on their hierarchic structure which is an organized assembly of structural units at increasing size levels. In fact, these structures are highly organized from the molecular to nano-, micro- and macro-scales, always in a hierarchical manner, with intricate but extremely functional architectures able to constantly adapt to ever changing mechanical needs.The TEM-PLANT project primary addresses the nano-biotechnologies area and will push the current boundaries of the state-of-the-art in production of hierarchical structured biomaterials. By combining biology, chemistry, materials science, nanotechnology and production technologies, new and complex plant transformation processes will be investigated to copy smart hierarchical structures existing in nature and to develop breakthrough biomaterials that could open the door to a whole new generation of biomedical applications for which no effective solution exists to date. Starting from suitably selected vegetal raw material, ceramization processes based on pyrolysis will be applied to produce carbon templates, which will be either infiltrated by silicon to produce inert SiC ceramic structures or exchanged by electrophoresis deposition to produce bioresobable ceramics. For ligament yielding two processes will be developed: pH-controlled and electrophoresis-controlled fibration to generate fibrous collagenous cords with high tensile strength and wear-resistance.
It looks like interesting work and I wish I could find out more about it (were they using nanocrystalline cellulose/crystal nanocellulose?). In the meantime, I decided to investigate Pinocchio (from the Wikipedia essay; I have removed links, etc.),
Pinocchio … is a fictional character and the main protagonist of the 1883 children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi, an Italian writer, and has since appeared in many adaptations of that story and others. Carved by a woodcarver named Geppetto in a small Italian village, he was created as a wooden puppet but dreamed of becoming a real boy. …
Interestingly, the lead team (Istituto di Scienza e Technologia dei Materiali Ceramici – CNR – Biomaterials Lab)
for the New Bio-ceramisation processes applied to vegetable hierarchical structures project was based in Italy.