Another Cool Example of Biomimicry in Healthcare Innovation

Biomimicry and Health Innovations - Another Cool ExampleBiomimicry comes from bio- and mimesis, literally “to imitate life”. Biomimicry is a structured look at how the natural world has solved problems or created opportunities and attempting to apply those strategies to design, engineering, invention, health and wellness, and more.

Often thought of as a “new” discipline, technically, it is actually quite ancient. Much of how we learn comes from mimicking. And indeed, many developments throughout medical history have come from mimicking nature – the natural world within ourselves and outside of our own species. Where biomimicry is new, is in the structured approach to “asking nature” and, of course, the institutions and the disciplines spawning from it.

Biomimicry has tremendous potential for innovations in health and wellness. Here is another awe-inspiring example of biomimicry and how profound its impact can be if applied to the medical sciences and health innovation.

The Sandcastle Worm

Sandcastle Worm Biomimicry and Innovations in Healthcare

Source: Fred Hayes for the University of Utah (Creative Commons)

Also called a black-bristled honeycomb worm, the sandcastle worm (Phragmatopoma californica) lives in colonies of self-made tubes. These tubes are made by “gluing” sand particles together. The sandcastle worm creates the “glue” in an lightly acidic environment. Once secreted into the alkaline seawater, it becomes a very strong adhesive. The sandcastle worm assembles a tube using the fine sand on the sea bottom. Those tubes are bound together in colonies (see the photo).

How can this aid us in health innovation? Well, in orthopedics, there are several strategies and devices for repairing simple or mildly complex bone fractures. But what about highly complex fractures? You know, the ones we often describe as “shattered”? Their small fragments are too small, numerous, and complex to bind with hardware. We are often limited to replacement surgeries. But what if we could borrow that same strategy that the sandcastle worm uses to bind the small particles of sand, to collect and bind small particles of bone?

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