Oysters’ healing power could mend bones

Thought oysters were just the medicine of love? Think again

OYSTERS AREN’T JUST a powerful aphrodisiac – they also have the healing power to mend human bones, say scientists.

French biologists who have been studying the way oysters produce nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, believe the process could be replicated to provide cures and preventative treatments for osteoporosis, arthritis and certain skin complaints.

‘The key is biomineralisation,’ Christian Milet at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris told the Independent. ‘Humans and oysters share the capacity for self repair. A human bone heals, as does a cracked oyster’s shell. We now believe nacre can be used to stimulate bone growth.’

Biomineralisation is an age-old process. More than 4,000 years ago, the Mayans of Central America realised that nacre was not only beautiful, but also hard and durable, and used it for false teeth. And in other cultures, including ancient Chinese and Egyptian, crushed nacre was used in beauty creams.

The aphrodisiac quality of oysters, which has never been scientifically proven, is said to be due to the mollusc’s high content of zinc, which, in humans, is required for the production of testosterone.

News of the French biologists’ progress in understanding nacre-making emerged with the opening of an exhibition, Perles, Une Histoire Naturelle, at the Natural History Museum in Paris, which, among other spectacles, is showing some of the biggest pearls ever found – including a 171-gram seawater pearl.

But the the link between oysters and bone mending will not be put in to use straight away. ‘We have already carried out in vivo bone graft tests in which we have obtained a perfect bond between the nacre and the bone. The medical uses of the biomineralisation will be seen some years into the future,’ said Milet.

‘[But] we have already asserted that not only can nacre be grafted on to bone and be accepted by the human body, it also releases active molecules which induce bone regeneration.’

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