Researchers at the University of Columbia have figured out how to get rabbits to regrow damaged bones with artificial implants. The implants are more like scaffolds, which acted as blueprints for healing. The hope is that tech could be used to help humans to the same.
The fact that the rabbits were able to regrow their joints and move around normally in as little as four weeks boggles the mind somewhat. Joints are complex parts of the body that need to be load-bearing and be able to handle a multitude of stresses.
"I wouldn't have thought in a normal weight-bearing joint that you could [replace the newly forming] cartilage while the joint is being loaded," Howard Seeherman, a chief scientific officer on the project, said. The cells of the rabbits worked into the scaffold-like implants, filling in the blanks and creating a new joint for the rabbits.
Regrowing a joint for a rabbit and a human are very different, however, according to the Technology Review:
Rabbits, particularly young ones, are also known for their regenerative abilities. Mao says the 23 rabbits used in the study were skeletally mature, and the three control rabbits--with injuries but no surgical repair--did not regrow joints. Rabbits who received the scaffold but not the growth factor saw some new growth, but not nearly as much as the ones who got the growth factor.
Still, this is a milestone in figuring out how to artificially stimulate natural healing — one that could one day see artificial hips and joints relying less on a prosthetic and more on the body's natural processes.