Using wood to generate human body parts
RISE PFI, part of the Swedish Research Institute, is researching how to utilise the nanocellulose in wood fibres for sustainable biomedical applications such as the regeneration of injured body parts.
The research is aimed at developing a method that will take the tiny wood fibres that form scaffolds and combine them with nutrients and stem cells from a human, in order to regenerate damaged body tissue.
"With this very advanced use of a component from a bio resource, we can help the body repair an injury or a wound by itself," said lead scientist on nanocellulose research at RISE PFI, Dr Kristin Syverud.
Dr Syverud explained that this would represent an advance in the medical field that is both highly significant and sustainable, considering that these ‘wooden’ human tissues would offer a natural alternative to the traditional synthetic medical products, which rely heavily on fossil fuels.
This is just one example of the sort of bio-based products scientists agree are essential for enabling a sustainable society in the future, through reducing the heavy reliance on fossil fuels in manufacturing processes.
Known as a bioeconomy, this alternative economic model would see bio-based materials used to create products vital to all aspects of daily life – something that can already be seen with clothing made from bamboo, cutlery made from bioplastics and natural pine-based materials used in adhesives and lubricants in place of crude oil.
Despite many bio-based technologies having been successfully proven in demonstrations, most are yet to be implemented on a commercial scale. Uncertainty around their profitability probably means there is a long way to go before such a bioeconomy becomes a reality.
RISE PFI is an internationally acknowledged research institute with a focus on the areas of biorefining and bioenergy, fibre technology, nanocellulose, carbohydrate polymers and biocomposites.