Studying bones in the lab

Before 1960, broken bones were treated simply by using plaster casts or traction. Then 13 Swiss surgeons began rethinking fracture treatment: they standardised instruments, screws and nails, scientifically evaluated every operation, and started training surgeons. On their tour of Davos’s scientific communities, Sara and Michele go behind the scenes to see what new technologies are currently being developed.

This content was published on January 24, 2023 minutes

The AO FoundationExternal link in Davos has been a leader in research into the healing of bone fractures for decades. Today, more than 100 scientists and PhD students from all over the globe work at the AO Research Institute Davos (ARI)External link, which is focused on pre-clinical research. They study biomechanics and the biology of bones, discs and cartilage, and work on new surgical techniques, tools and devices, such as "smart" implants that measure bone healing in patients.

Some of ARI’s work depends on tests with live animals to ensure that studies are not affected by any hidden issues that would prevent the translation of a concept or implant to patient treatments. ARI recently set up a barn for so-called “specific-pathogen-free” (SPF) sheep. For sheep to be deemed SPF, they are separated from conventional sheep and kept in a purpose-built stable. However, the goal is to gradually reduce the dependence on, and even someday completely forgo, animal tests. Several projects at the ARI are aimed at achieving this.

In case you missed it, watch part one of “Exploring science in Davos” below. And look out for future episodes, in which we discover the latest research in artificial intelligence, allergies, solar radiation and avalanches.

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?