Humans are not so lucky about the regeneration part but Tel Aviv University research says we may come close.
Prof. Meital Zilberman of TAU's Department of Biomedical Engineering has developed a new biologically active "scaffold" made from soluble fibers, which may help humans replace lost or missing bone. With more research, she says, it could also serve as the basic technology for regenerating other types of human tissues, including muscle, arteries, and skin.
The scaffold fiber research is currently being licensed through Ramot, TAU's technology transfer company. The invention doesn't have a catchy name but it may not need one because it could be used to restore missing bone in a limb lost in an accident, or repair receded jawbones necessary to secure dental implants, says Zilberman. The scaffold can be shaped so the bone will grow into the proper form. After a period of time, the fibers can be programmed to dissolve, leaving no trace.
Composite drug-releasing fibers used as basic elements of scaffolding for tissue and bone regeneration. Credit: AFTAU
"The bioactive agents that spur bone and tissue to regenerate are available to us. The problem is that no technology has been able to effectively deliver them to the tissue surrounding that missing bone," says Zilberman. Her artificial and flexible scaffolding connects tissues together as it releases growth-stimulating drugs to the place where new bone or tissue is needed ― like the scaffolding that surrounds an existing building when additions to that building are made.
The technology may also have potential uses in cosmetic surgery. Instead of silicon implants to square the chin or raise cheekbones, the technology can be used to "grow your own" cheekbones or puffy lips, says Zilberman.