Much of modern medicine depends on high tech innovations. Broken bones, however, are another story. They are still dealt with in a clumsy, old-fashioned way that frequently involves screws, nails and pins. Even the simplest operation can result in infections and incomplete healing if those devices are not placed as they should be. In dramatic circumstances—for instance on a battlefield, where surgeons cannot use X-ray machines and there is no proper operating theatre—the need for so many bits and bobs can make effective surgery impossible. Thousands of soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, have had limbs amputated after injuries that could have been treated at any hospital.
Now a new solution may be at hand.