Nature's answer to breaching the skin barrier: an innovative development for amputees

C J Pendegrass, A E Goodship, J S Price, G W Blunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The human body has evolved to maintain homeostasis through the covering of skin and mucous membranes, which separate the internal environment from the harsh and variable external milieu. Few structures naturally penetrate these coverings, and teeth are the only exception in human beings. Attempts to breach these barriers, to develop skin- penetrating, bone-anchored amputation prostheses, can lead to opportunist invasion by microorganisms and subsequent infection, which can jeopardize the life of the individual. There are only a few fascinating examples where the integument of other species is interrupted without such dire consequences, and the deer antler is one such case. Deer antlers are cephalic bony appendages arising from the frontal bones of the skull of the males of most deer species, and are true transient skin-penetrating structures. Antlers are subject to extreme loading during the rutting season and yet the skin-bone barrier remains intact. Here we show how deer antlers can be used as natural analogues for the successful development of specialized orthopaedic amputation prosthetics. We have used quantitative and qualitative findings from a study of the morphology of deer antlers to develop a device that mimics their structure, which creates a tight seal between the implant and the host tissues, for use in amputation prosthetics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-67
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006


  • Amputation
  • Animals
  • Antlers
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Biomimetic Materials
  • Bone and Bones
  • Deer
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Prosthesis Implantation
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections
  • Skin
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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