Jennifer: Oysters are being considered as material for bone replacement by researchers at Murdoch University in Perth. Making use of the common oyster shell in bone replacement is an innovative approach which exploits its strength and high levels of calcium. Its iridescent coating, the nacre, has excellent adhesive properties and does not illicit an immune response from the body.
A major component of bone is hydroxyapatite, or HAP. Led by Dr Eddy Poinern, a team of researchers has devised a novel method of synthesizing nanoparticulate HAP, which they have termed “nanobone”. While chemically similar to natural bone, its nanostrucutre provides it with enhanced bioactivity and improved mechanical properties due to its larger surface to volume ratio. Its physical properties are much like that of plasticine, meaning that its shape can be manipulated to fit any joint or socket.
Murdoch University student Esra Alacantra used nanobone to coat fragmented samples of oyster shell. Esra observed that the synthetic HAP formed a solid layer over the shell, and, from the increased hardness, concluded that it could be an appropriate base for nanobone coating.
Esra’s findings could also have a positive effect on the environment. Disposal of oyster shell waste has arisen as a significant environmental issue, and currently, two main methods are landfill and dumping at sea. Employing oysters in bone replacement would consequently reduce shell pollution.