Israel’s OkCoral Lab is trying to grow bone transplants for human beings from sea coral.
That’s right! Someday people who need bone grafts to replace what was either amputated due to cancer or crushed in an accident may need to thank sea life for their replacements. It can even be used for dental implants as its consistency is similar to that of teeth.
Coral, which is a form of marine invertebrate which can be found in warm waters such as the Red Sea just south of Israel, builds an exoskeleton around itself. That skeleton is what snorkelers and tourists see when they visit coral beaches around the world, like the one in Eilat.
If you have ever touched it then you know that coral feels just like bone and to the naked eye it looks like stone.
OkCoral Lab is operated by Corebone, a Trendlines company.
CoreBone states that it has developed a highly bioactive, 100% mineral, strong bone graft material for dental, orthopedic and spine applications. The patented technology embeds bioactive minerals into the skeleton of corals during their growth process, accelerating healing and providing better bone connectivity.
Coral comes with a major benefit that makes it better for transplants than bone taken from human donors: it is not subject to rejection by the recipient body’s immune system as can happen with all sorts of organ transplants.
OkCoral also grows its coral in a lab which means that it is free of any pollutants or diseases that may be found in that which grows naturally in the sea.
Located in the middle of Israel’s Negev desert, OkCoral was founded in 2008 with only $2.5 million.
The lab’s founder Assaf Shaham is completely dedicated to his work. As the scientist told CNN “In six years of growing corals, I haven’t left these four walls for more than 12 hours — not even once. For me, it’s 100% learning as I go. I take the mother colony, and I cut off a branch of the coral with a diamond saw. Then I glue it to another base made out of cement.”
The company says that it can market a box of coral for as much as $250 which only cost it as little as $5 to produce.