Titanium Foam Bone Replacement
Credit: Fraunhofer IFAM
The history of prosthetic design illustrates a technological trajectory of increasing sophistication and intricacy. Early anatomical replacements or augmentations were outgrowths of the crude hand-crafted or industrial fabrication methods of their time, but recent material advancements blur the distinction between the natural and artificial.
TiFoam for example, is a newly developed bone replacement made of titanium foam. Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute as an alternative to the solid titanium plates used to reinforce human skulls, TiFoam resembles the spongy texture and mechanical properties of real bone. Particularly notable is the fact that TiFoam marries well with adjacent bone cells and encourages their growth, such that bone spongiosa eventually merges with the material of the new implant. As a result, TiFoam patients are requested to subject modified bone to stress immediately after surgery in order to accelerate the growth process.
If TiFoam is indicative of a trend, one could say that the focus of prosthesis has changed from clever products to increasingly lifelike materials. Imagine if such technologies could one day transcend their current role in patching holes in order to reconstruct entire limbs?