Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Science

Grow Your Own Replacement Bones 331

Tim writes "New Scientist reports on a German man who had a complete jaw transplant, after having his cancerous jawbone removed nine years ago. The twist? This jawbone was grown on his shoulder, using a titanium mold, bone marrow, and recombinant bone morphogenic protein." There's also a BBC story.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Grow Your Own Replacement Bones

Comments Filter:
  • yup (Score:2, Funny)

    by captnitro ( 160231 ) *
    Gentlemen, start your erection jokes!

    Go! Go! Go!
  • Great. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dthoma ( 593797 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:48AM (#10088944) Journal
    Still, the amount of pain associated with getting broken bones means that I doubt there'll be anyone willing to abuse this system!
    • Re:Great. (Score:5, Informative)

      by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:52AM (#10089001)
      Umm, this really isn't for people with your typical broken bone. This is for people that need a bone replacement.

      It only took seven weeks to grow the replacement jaw-piece and then only four more weeks until it was successfully grown into place.

      For some reason I was under the impression that they had grown him an entire new jaw but that was obviously not the case as they only grew him a piece of his jawbone back. He still has no teeth and the doctors claim he can get a set next year.

      Wow.
      • Atrophy? (Score:3, Interesting)

        From start to end, the bone-replacement procedure took four weeks.

        If muscles can be kept from atrophying in that amount of time, you could probably replace long bones like those found in arms and legs.

        That'd be cool...
      • Re:Great. (Score:4, Funny)

        by LilMikey ( 615759 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:12PM (#10089247) Homepage
        He still has no teeth and the doctors claim he can get a set next year.

        They're waiting for a shoulder to open up.
    • Re:Great. (Score:4, Funny)

      by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:04PM (#10089157) Homepage
      Maybe they'll work-out how to regrow noses, and Michael Jackson can put that piece of his ear back? (The idea that pain will limit abuse is, perhaps, wishful thinking.)
      • Re:Great. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dasmegabyte ( 267018 ) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Friday August 27, 2004 @01:36PM (#10090009) Homepage Journal
        Why limit abuse? If people want to grow new limbs for cosmetic reasons, I say let 'em do it. It's their bodies, their money, and it can only mean cheaper rates for other, non-cosmetic procedures. And there are some procedures which would be partly cosmetic but could also be very healthful...growing replacement leg bones for people who have uneven legs, or replacement fingers for people who've lost them.

        Heck, I'd like to see Alan Colmes able to someday finally grow a spine.
      • Re:Great. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RLW ( 662014 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @02:03PM (#10090256)
        One man's abuse is another's joy. Who is to say what is abusive when it comes to one's own body ? Take breast implants for instance. What if a woman wants to reconstruct her physical image after a radical mastectomy ? Is that abusive ? While the doctor is in there why not have a little bit more mass than before ? Is this abusive. What if she has always wanted to be really big ? is that abusive ? where does one draw the line ? What is someone is really short because of underdeveloped limbs ? There is a procedure for lengthing existing bones. whould it be abusive for this short person to have their legs lengthend a bit ? Something to ponder.
  • Perfect! (Score:4, Funny)

    by NoMoreNicksLeft ( 516230 ) <<ten.tsacmoc> <ta> <relyo.nhoj>> on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:48AM (#10088954) Journal
    I've always wanted 20 or 30 more vertebrae. And finally, some quasi-femurs and quasi-patellas for my new 2-jointed legs.

    Hmmm. Where to attach the second set of arms?
    • "Such a lovely child...so full of bones"
    • by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @01:26PM (#10089944) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, I was thinking I could get a tiny little extra lower AND upper mandible grown, then I could have that freaky double mouth action thing from Alien going on...

      (yeah we can laugh now, when our kids come home with a double ring of Doberman teeth circling their skulls 'cause it's the krezappy style of the day we'll be singing a different tune.
  • of jawbone shoulder guy ending up in the next Dr. Evil henchman?
  • joking aside, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JUSTONEMORELATTE ( 584508 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:50AM (#10088972) Homepage
    As creepy as this may be for those of us fortunate enough to still have all original parts, it's life-changing or even life-saving if you've lost a section of your skeleton (like this dude) for some reason.
    Profoundly cool work.
    --
    I always wanted an iPod [freeipods.com] how about you?

    • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:59AM (#10089103) Homepage Journal
      One might even say "jaw-droppingly cool". Because this is just that cool.
    • Re:joking aside, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hpulley ( 587866 ) <hpulley4&yahoo,com> on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:00PM (#10089118) Homepage

      Too bad it sounds like this is just generic bone grown in a mold, not actually a grown jawbone which knows its own shape. While it is cool that they can do this, I hope it leads to more complicated things like joints being grown to the right shape later as right now we can't do implantable prosthetic wrists or ankles, just too complicated. I know, as I have had reconstructive wrist surgery due to bone loss from a bone tumor; as good a job as they did with metal, cement, etc., it is not and never will be 100% as good as the original. I'd gladly have a wrist growing on my back for a while if it meant being 100% as good as before.

      • Re:joking aside, (Score:2, Interesting)

        The article doesn't say anything about muscles...I'm still curious what they atteched to the jawbone.
      • Re:joking aside, (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Writer ( 746272 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @02:29PM (#10090526)

        While it is cool that they can do this, I hope it leads to more complicated things like joints being grown to the right shape

        You can create joints grown to the right shape. You can create Rapid Prototyping Models of bones from CT scans. You can have CT scans of bones exported to a format called DICOM [nema.org] which you can then have converted to a file format called STL [protogenic.com], used in Rapid Prototyping [wikipedia.org]. In your case, you could probably get a CT Scan of your other wrist in DICOM format, and have the STL mesh flipped to be a mirror image.

        There are some [materialise.com] services [simpleware.co.uk] that can provide conversion software, or do the file conversions, as well as provide the RP models, although the models are made through stereolythography [materialise.com] from what I gather. There are newer methods [zcorp.com] of creating rapid prototyping models that use the same STL file format, that are probably more precise.

        You can obtain some [materialise.com] software [simpleware.co.uk] packages [ablesw.com] that let you do the conversion yourself, and although there is probably a bit of a learning curve, the biggest problem would be the price. It would be best to just let the services handle the conversion and you choose which Rapid Prototyping method to use.

        From this point, you can use the model to construct a titanium mold, which could then be used to produce actual bone. And as for cartilege for the joint, the Carticel [carticel.com] cartilege growth and transplant procedure could probably be applied. The FDA has approved Carticel for the knees and hips, but it would be up to a doctor's discretion to apply it in other ways.

    • It's neat but I'm a little fuzzy on the necessity. The replaced bit was 7cm/3in more or less and previously it was a titanium insert. The article repeatedly stated that "now he can" chew.

      "Natural" materials may usually be better and too much detail about the whys and wherefors may be beyond the scope of the article but I'da liked some details about why the titanium insert wasn't up to the task.

    • a true story (Score:3, Insightful)

      A friend of mine who broke a toe went to the ER to have it fixed. As she was thinking to herself that the wait was taking forever, a woman was rushed in, and then my friend heard the people who accompanied her talk about how that woman no longer had a face after getting kicked by a horse, and were wondering what would or could be done.

      Suddenly she didnt feel so bad about her broken toe.

      When she told me, I made a mental note to stay away from large animals.
  • remove the titanium? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bodrell ( 665409 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:50AM (#10088979) Journal
    They didn't explain why they would have to go back later and remove the titanium scaffold. People have titanium hips, vertabrae, skull plates, and teeth--how come those don't have to be removed?
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:50AM (#10088981) Journal
    Just to show you how some people can never be pleased, the guy complains to his doctor that because he has no teeth he has to cut it into such small pieces that by the time he gets to the end of the steak, it's cold.

    Reminds me of the story that was related to me the other night by someone on IRC. They knew someone whose kids found $200K in a bag and was eventually given control of the money since no one claimed it.

    The person spent the money on a house and 2 Jeeps and then later complained that they'd wish they could get a break in life.
  • by k4_pacific ( 736911 ) <k4_pacificNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:50AM (#10088987) Homepage Journal
    Just wait till the piercing/body modification crowd catches wind of this. I imagine tusks, horns, antlers, fangs, claws... The possibilities are endless.
    • by Solder Fumes ( 797270 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:59AM (#10089102)
      No, just wait until the FURRIES get ahold of this! Dog and fox muzzles, cat noses, animal legs, TAILS! At least they'll be permanently identifiable to the torch-and-pitchfork mobs.
    • Mods: this may not be a funny post ... it reminds me of this vampire girl at my school. She filed her teeth into fangs. I can only imagine my high school after these body modifications become more cosmetic than anything else....i mean a third of the girls had fake stuff already.
    • Tiger-Man (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nucal ( 561664 )
      Here's a guy who is gradually turning himself into a tiger [ananova.com]. For real ...
    • Just imagine when the Do-It-Yourself kits become available. Think of all the botched first time projects.

      "What's that thing on the end of your dick?"

      "That was supposed to be a third eye."

      BTW, I used to think the ultimate in body mutilation was going to be plexiglass skull windows.
  • by SIGALRM ( 784769 ) * on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:51AM (#10088990) Journal
    The titanium frame with its bone-growing ingredients were then implanted into a layer of muscle on the patient's right shoulder blade to form tissue and blood vessel connections to the muscle. "He actually didn't find this uncomfortable at all and was able to sleep on that side with no problems,"
    I find this amazing. He was able to sleep with a partial jaw... a JAW growing from his shoulder.

    I'd probably complain, something like, "damn, this really bites"...
  • Groaners all, and since everybody wants one, let's get them on the floor:

    Now, "I have a bone" to pick with you has a whole new meaning!

    Hey, is that a jawbone growing out of your shoulder or are you just happy to see me?

    Great - I hear Johnson grew another mouth. Now I'll be getting it in both ears.

    I, for one, welcome our shoulder jawbone overlords.

    OK, now in seriousness, I think this is a great achievement. Flash forward 10-12 years, and imagine what this could do for other organs. Regrow a finger or a hand for amputees maybe? Suppose we get to work on other organs, such as the heart? Old guy in his 60's can just have new organs regrown to extend his healthy life expectancy to 150 years?

    Of course, there's the whole "stem cell and cloning" issues that might come to play when we're talking about organs and not bones, but still, this is a very exciting first step. Congrats to the doctor and patient.
    • by cleverhandle ( 698917 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:12PM (#10089245)

      Flash forward 10-12 years, and imagine what this could do for other organs. Regrow a finger or a hand for amputees maybe? Suppose we get to work on other organs, such as the heart? Old guy in his 60's can just have new organs regrown to extend his healthy life expectancy to 150 years?

      All of those sound like wonderful, noble goals for medicine, but even with my limited knowledge I can see that this particular achievement doesn't lead there directly. The nice thing about a bone that made this achievement possible is that (to a large extent) shape=function. Thus, the doctors could grow some bone matter into a mold and stick the resulting shape into place. But that's a big difference from doing something like "programming" the bone cells to become a jawbone, which is the kind of thing that would need to happen for regrowing arbitrary organs.

      Not denying the utter coolness of this procedure at all... I just don't think it's quite as far-reaching as you make it out to be.

    • You could even grow back your.... oh wait... no bone in there...
  • A perfect example (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SpermanHerman ( 763707 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:54AM (#10089032)
    of why stem cell research needs further capitalization. We are scratching the surface of what stem cells can really do for us! Hopefully Bush will read this article and wake up. Science and technology are the only initiatives (right now) that will push mankind forward.

    • Quoth the article:

      Now, doctors at the University of Kiel in Germany have neatly bypassed the initial bone removal procedure and instead grown the required bone from stem cells in the patient's own bone marrow.

    • by BillFarber ( 641417 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:19PM (#10089331)
      Hopefully Bush will read this article and wake up.

      Except that Bush is against fetal stem cell research. This kind of stem cell research is supported by Bush. This case actually helps Bush's argument.

      • Actually... (Score:5, Informative)

        by GreenCrackBaby ( 203293 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @02:12PM (#10090352) Homepage
        Except that Bush is against fetal stem cell research. This kind of stem cell research is supported by Bush. This case actually helps Bush's argument.


        Actually, since this all happened in Germany, and not in the US, I think it is a pretty good case against Bush's stem cell "policy" (more like religious idiocy, imho).

        My wife finished her undergrad genetics degree (at a Canadian university) a couple of years ago, and even then she noticed an increase in the number of people from the US coming up for grad studies, since the type of work they needed to do with stem cells just wasn't possible in the US.

        Stem cell research is going to happen, with or without Bush. The only variable is the country in which it is going to happen, and right now it ain't the US.

    • I agree completely that stem cell research must not be restricted, the potential benefits are simply ming-boggling. But the Associated Press article [msn.com] I read earlier today which covers this same story, however, states that "it's not clear any major scientific ground has been broken, and tests may not be able to show whether the new bone came from stem cells, rather than from the growth factor alone." So in this case stem cells might not have anything to do with the results. That article is pretty detailed as
    • Apparently, not everyone believes the stem cells played a role. If you look at this article here at cnn.com [cnn.com] there is the following quote.

      Paul Brown, head of the Center for Tissue Regeneration Science at University College in London, said it's not clear any major scientific ground has been broken, and tests may not be able to show whether the new bone came from stem cells, rather than from the growth factor alone.

      The operation put established techniques together, resembling a well-known experiment in w

  • by ajlitt ( 19055 )
    Sources say Richard Keil is on the waiting list for a new jaw, too.
  • bone from stem cells

    *oh the horrors*

    Why is Bush and his administration against stem cell research again ???
    Wouldn't the vast majority of americans want to have this technology available to them ?

    • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:06PM (#10089180) Homepage Journal
      As much as I don't like Bush and the Republican party, and think their embryonic stem cell restrictions are the penultimate in luddite stupidity, you should reread the article. This jawbone was grown from his own bone marrow stem cells, and did not require embryonic stem cells. No Bushwhacking would be involved.

      Besides, this was done in Germany. Even if the Theocratic States of America succeed in shutting down all medical progress, they're happy to outsource this sort of thing. Need a new kidney? Fly to Germany, they'll be happy to grow you a new one.

    • Bush wants to ban Federal Funding from Stem Cell Research. This seems to be privately funded.

      Stem Cell Research is not illegal. Still.
    • by jwriney ( 16598 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:10PM (#10089231) Homepage
      Don't believe the FUD. Bush is not against stem cell research. He has prevented such research that involves the destruction of human embryos from receiving federal funding. Research involving stem cells from adults, animals, and cord blood, which are all highly promising, is federally funded and ongoing.

      --riney
      • Because (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Aexia ( 517457 )
        allowing surplus embryos that were going to be destroyed anyways to be used for scientific research that will help people is the height of degradation.
    • by ImTwoSlick ( 723185 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @01:30PM (#10089976)
      Why is Bush and his administration against stem cell research again ???

      A common misconception here on /. is that Bush is against stem cell research. The fact is that he's not. He is against stem cell harvesting from aborted fetuses. The law he signed bans only federal funding for stem cell research that uses fetus stem cells. This does not prevent private research in this area at all. In fact, there are now ways to harvest stem cells from adults, and thus doesn't have the same moral complications as the previous method.

      • The fact is that he's not. He is against stem cell harvesting from aborted fetuses.

        He's against stem cell harvesting from left over embryos from in-vitro fertilization, which he supports wholeheartedly.

        Understandably, Republicans are frothing themselves into spinland because it's a very unpopular stance, one that they themselves might disagree with. But since they can't ever criticize Bush, they have to do all sorts of mental gymnastics to convince themselves that he's not actually doing anything stupid
  • by tao_of_biology ( 666898 ) * <tao.of.biology@g ... om minus painter> on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:55AM (#10089055)
    Stuff like this is definitely the way of the future. With all of the stem cell research and cloning research going on, it won't be THAT long before we could potentially have organs and other body parts in storage that was grown from our own stem cells or other cells.

    Need a liver transplant? No problem, here is one we already made for you. Lung? Spleen? No problem. And now, we apparently have the technology to make the body grow bones of any shape we like and to surgically put those back in the body. That's unbelievably cool.

    And, because all of these things are genetically identical to the recipient of the transplant, there is no kind of rejection problem at all.

    I don't think it'll be that far down the road before "transplants" are a thing of the past. All organ/tissue replacement will be made for an individual.

  • Wait... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:57AM (#10089078)
    Does this mean I should stop harvesting body parts off of hookers?
  • So, why not teeth? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bobzibub ( 20561 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:58AM (#10089089)
    I do not understand why we can't grow teeth. Wouldn't that be a great benefit?

    Grab some DNA from an existing tooth, off to the farm. Good as new b/c they *are* new.

    -b

  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi@@@yahoo...com> on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:58AM (#10089090) Journal
    Where does this guy work when this thing is growing out of his back and he looks like one of the zombies from Doom3?

    Is he a greeter at Walmart? Cashier at a Burger King? Clown at kids parties?

    I just can't see him saying, "Oooo ahhh iiiieess iiii ahhhh?" (Do you want fries with that?)

    Yes. I'm going to hell.

  • by Drunken_Jackass ( 325938 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:58AM (#10089097) Homepage
    I mean seriously. As cool as this is, who wants to have a jaw on their shoulder? If you had a clone, you could put the jaw on his shoulder.

    No fuss, no muss.
  • Whoops (Score:4, Funny)

    by Jucius Maximus ( 229128 ) <[m4encxb2sw] [at] [snkmail.com]> on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:00PM (#10089112) Journal
    Am I the only one who read that as "Grow Your Own Replacement Boss" ?

    I'm surprised that I don't get spam about this topic.

    • Don't feel bad. I read "Grow Your Own Replacement Boner" and figured it was something for people beyond the help of even a Viagra IV drip.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... but man, talk about a chip on your shoulder!
  • Please! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Todd Fisher ( 680265 )
    Ligand binding to its receptor induces the formation of a complex in which the Type II BMP receptor phosphorylates and activates the Type I BMP receptor.

    That sounds so made up.
  • really is a jaw dropper!
  • next time I loose a bone I will come back to this.

    hehe.. seriously though, that is pretty cool, like that harry potter bone grow juice stuff..

  • by PhotoBoy ( 684898 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:12PM (#10089248)
    Sounds like there's hope for Darth Malak after all!
  • If you take some old codger with oesteoporosis, grow them some new bones, and then add in a mechanical exoseleton [slashdot.org] and I think we're all in a world of hurt. Bingo night will look something akin to a Terminator installment.
  • by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:20PM (#10089337)
    In a few weeks I am having a spinal fusion surgery to repair my back. My L3 vertebrae is broken completely in two and there is a half inch gap between my spine.

    I was given the choice of having bone matter placed in me from a dead person or using my own bone marrow. Well duh! Which choice did I take?

    They are going to put two titanium tubes drilled with many small holes in between the two vertebrae then fill them with a mixture of my bone marrow and this BMP material or something very much like it. The mixture will spawn new bone growth and cause the two vertebrae to grow (or fuse) into one large vertebrae. Titanium rods and screws will hold it all together while it grows, which could take anywhere from one year to two years.

    This is from an injury that occurred about 37 years ago and degenerated over time from a fracture to the point of total failure of the bone. I'm told that it's a GOOD thing that it just now is coming to light because of these new procedures, otherwise had they found it when I was a child, spinal surgical procedures in those days were barbaric and had a low success rate. They say this new method has better than a 95% success rate, with the 5 percent failure due to people not doing as told afterwards.
    • by BCW2 ( 168187 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @03:08PM (#10090877) Journal
      I had fusion done in my neck, C5, C6, C7, in 1998. The Doc went in through the front with a scope, removed the 2 ruptured disks. Then put bone plugs from the donor bank in and screwed a titanium plate to the front. Five weeks later I was back at work as a mechanic. I worked on lighter stuff as much as possible but was up to full strength in six months. No problems since.
      Good Luck.
  • More pictures here (Score:4, Informative)

    by hemabe ( 532570 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:22PM (#10089355)
    If you want to see more pictures, you can find them here [t-online.de].
  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:26PM (#10089400) Journal
    I was born with conjenital dislocation of the hips, which successively degraded over the years so that I had to have both hips replaced with artificial ones in 1995 at the age of 31. Although these artificial hips have been very good, I have to be careful about my weight and that I don't do jarring kinds of sports or lift heavy weights. I would have given a lot for this kind of implant to replace my degraded hips.

    Perhaps in the future...
    • I'd have to agree there. When I was born, I was supposed to be delivered c-section due to wide shoulders. The regular doc wasn't there, and the attending guy was in a hurry or something, didn't bother to read the chart.

      Needless to say the forceps gave me nerve damage that left me temporarily paralyzed on the right side, my right shoulder socket never formed, and from several years of neglect my right arm is partially atrophied. Previous surgeries seem to have harmed more than helped.

      I had hoped a procedur
  • by necro2607 ( 771790 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:36PM (#10089509)
    This sort of news always reminds me of the book Neuromancer. Makes me think of all the crazy modifications people get done to themselves in that book... it seems like we're always getting one step closer to the book's fictional ideas becoming reality (which in my opinion is both good and bad).

    I'm still anxiously awaiting a true 'matrix' as depicted in the book! :D
  • Another Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Karma Farmer ( 595141 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @12:38PM (#10089522)
    Another story, with pictures. [msn.com]

    A quote in that story, from Paul Brown, head of the Center for Tissue Regeneration Science at University College in London:
    Just making the gross tissue shape right isn't really the problem, it's what the shape of the tissue is at the microscopic and ultramicroscopic level. That's the architecture which is so tricky and which is what gives function.


  • by The Fun Guy ( 21791 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @01:16PM (#10089857) Homepage Journal
    Have you always wanted that fashionable and useful unbreakable skeleton, but don't have the rapid mutant healing factor that would let you survive the implant surgery? Well, this offer IS FOR YOU!

    Now available for the rest of us,

    Wolverine's Skeleton(TM)!

    With our patented new techniques, in just seven weeks(1) you can get the adamantium-matrix bone structure that you need. The Wolverine's Skeleton(TM) uses 100% adamantium in a computer-designed matrix that supports the growth of *your* bone marrow cells. No need to worry about loss of immune system function, because with the Wolverine's Skeleton(TM) system, your bone marrow will keep making T-cells and helper B-cells, just like always. Surprising affordable(2), your Wolverine's Skeleton(TM) will pay for itself in record time. From stopping .45 slugs with your molars to shrugging off I-beams to the thigh(3), Wolverine's Skeleton(TM) is the skeleton you need!

    Order today!

    1-888-METAL-ME

    (1) per bone
    (2) adamantium not included
    (3) no protection to musculature, nerve tissue, blood vessels or other non-bone elements is stated or implied
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @03:44PM (#10091170)
    When Roy Horn was mauled by the lion, they removed a big piece of his skull to prevent brain swelling. Then they kept the skull fragment in his abdomen a couple weeks until the brain was OK. Sounds a bit creepy to move bone around like that, but its the most reliable way to keep the bone alive.
  • by deathcow ( 455995 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @04:24PM (#10091479)
    I wrote the C code inside a robotic limb lengthening machine and was able to attend many surgeries and see patient progress over time.

    The basic principle is simple... break a leg and tug on it by 1 millimeter per day, and the body will fill in the gap with new bone.

    The technique is called the Ilizarov [google.com] technique after the Russian who discovered it. You can see in those pictures that a mechanical frame takes the place of your broken bone during the "stretching" phase. The leg is broken, but the frame keeps you able to walk nearly normal.

    The most amazing operation I saw was a guy who blew away his entire tibia/fibula with a shotgun, but didn't overly destroy the blood vessels and nerves and muscle of the lower leg. They bolted one of these frames on, compressed his ankle and foot up just 4" from his knee, waited a few days for the bone to knit, and then grew him a new tibia over the course of 6 months.

    You can make ANYONE taller using this technique, at about 1 inch per month.

    The Russians used wrenches to turn their bolts 4 times a day, elongating the metal frame by 1/4 mm four times per day, for the 1mm total. Our device (the autogenesis device) used Intel microcontrollers and stepper motors geared down enormously, so that we elongated the frame over 1000 times per day by less than a micron each move. The result was more natural looking nerves, blood vessels, (which are also grown by this technique), the body likes the gradual movements better.

    You can do all kinds of crazy stuff with this technique. One of the first patients was an Atlanta Falcons player who had one leg lengthened by a small amount and also had the foot rotated by a few degrees (again, a very small amount each day) to correct an improperly healed injury.

"Little else matters than to write good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer

Working...