The first ever study exploring the biomechanics of arthropod bone repair has been conducted. This may not sound too exciting, but scientists believe that the field of biomechanics and bioengineering can be advanced by studying the interesting way in which bugs repair their own bodies after injury.
When an insect sustains an injury, it can repair itself by laying a patch of cuticle underneath the wounded area of the insect’s body. This new cuticle functions like a bandage and it successfully strengthens the wounded area allowing the insect to continue with its day. This may sound amazing, however, we humans are able to regrow broken bones, while insects cannot. Instead insects use something like a permanent cast or splint that allows them to continue using their injured limb.
The repaired limb is not as strong as the original limb before it was injured, but the repaired limb is strong enough to not make any difference in the insect’s ability to function in the wild. For example, locusts are able to repair their limbs up to two-thirds their original strength, which is enough for the locusts to continue using their legs for jumping long distances, their primary method of evading predators. This method of bone repair in insects has engineers interested in learning more about the biomechanics behind this unique biological process. Researchers are hoping to mimic this ability through engineering.
Why would engineers be interested in learning more about the process of bone repair in insects? What sorts of things could engineers produce if they could successfully reproduce this biological process through engineering?