Re-growing bones comes in handy when you are a wizard who has just broken your arm playing in an aggressive match of Quidditch. It also comes in handy when a magical teacher accidentally vaporizes the bones. While most people don’t blink an eye at the magic in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, most wouldn’t expect science to mimic it. And that’s where they’d be wrong.
Researchers with the Eindhoven University of Technology have found a way to mimic the formation process of bone—in other words, they may have a way to grow bone. The team will be publishing a paper in December 2010 in Nature Materials that will explain more about the research process.
When bone develops in the body, it is the formation of calcium phosphate growing inside collagen. The collagen fibers control the process and direct bone, while biomolecules play a different role in development. By studying this process using tools, such as an electron microscope, the team has been able to learn more about the process and develop its own method to recreate it. The electron microscope has a high enough resolution to see individual atoms.
While the research from this team, led by Dr. Nico Sommerdijk, is able to mimic the body’s process, the team itself will not be following the project into production. It passed that torch onto an Italian-based research institution, which is already using the process to begin creating bone implants. Sommerdijk team’s will continue to pursue its current course of research and expand it to determine whether they can make other kinds of materials using the same process.
There’s no doubt the process is a bit more complicated than drinking a magical portion, but for many, bone implants could be its form of magic, courtesy of science and research teams like Sommerdijk’s.