Best Inventions of 2009: Wooden Bones

TIME’s picks for the best new gadgets and breakthrough ideas of the year, we’ll feature some of the ones we find interesting.

It’s odd to think of putting sticks of wood inside people as a revolutionary medical procedure, but that’s exactly what a group of Italian scientists is working on.

They’re using wood – red oak, rattan and sipo work best – to create an artificial bone replacement called carbonated hydroxyapatite.

Because of the sponginess of the wood, live bones are expected to grow into the structure faster than with traditional titanium or ceramic implants, decreasing the time it takes to mend a broken bone.

The procedure isn’t quite ready for human testing, so sheep are currently testing the artificial bones.

Researchers say that with the bone substitute, which takes approximately one week to process, they can create virtually any size or shape.

Photo by TIME.

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