Medical experts in Lublin in eastern Poland are pioneering the use of an innovative artificial bone technology that has saved some patients from amputation.
One of the first to benefit was Daniel Bardega. Following a motorcycle accident he faced a choice: accept an experimental procedure, or lose his right leg:
"Of course, at the beginning there were quite a few worries, because there was no guarantee that my body would accept the material, that it wouldn't be rejected."
A large section of Daniel's leg bone was destroyed in the crash.
Doctor Adam Nogalski used pieces of the artificial bone, called FlexiOss, together with a metal plate, to re-build a seven-centimetre section of Daniel's femur.
"The main problem of the cavities in the bone was solved by implanting the new material, which goes in place of the bone in small segments," says Doctor Nogalski.
"Eight years after the operation, the result of the treatment is good, and the patient can move without crutches."
The FlexiOss technology was co-developed by biochemist Anna Belcarz.
She knew that surgeons weren't happy with other bone replacements which come in powder form and are tricky to handle.
In contrast, FlexiOss can be cut and shaped when dry and becomes flexible when wet.
It's also made with artificial compounds, rather than animal bone, reducing the risk of rejection.
It stays in the body and bone cells grow in and around it:
"FlexiOss looks like pumice stone," she says, "but isn't. It's a material that replaces the bone, and when it's dampened with a solution it has a level of elasticity, and can be formed by the surgeon during the operation."
The FlexiOss project has benefitted from a million euros in EU grants, including Cohesion Policy funds.
It has won 14 awards and been accorded 3 patents.
41 people have received FlexiOss implants in what are classed as experimental operations.
Another of those who have benefitted is Jan Filus, who has had 5 unsuccessful operations to repair his shattered thigh bone. He's just had FlexiOss implanted in his leg in the hope of finally seeing bone growth.
"Only those who have previously had other methods of treatment which did not bring the expected effect, i.e. there was still no bone growth, received the treatment; this is the last chance for these patients," says Doctor Nogalski.
Others should get their chance soon. FlexiOss is due to receive its CE certification mark later this year, meaning it can be commercialised across Europe.