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Say you have a man, living in a medieval time. When he is twelve years old, a stone amulet is placed on the skin of his chest and glued on. It will remain there forever, untill he dies.

What will happen when he grows, and when time passes? Will the skin and flesh grow around the amulet, or will it just remain on top of the skin? How many years will it take for skin to grow around the object?

And if it doesn't grow around it automatically, is there a way to make it so? Say you cut of a piece of skin in the shape of the amulet, and glue the amulet on the wound? Or place something over it so it will grow like that?

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    $\begingroup$ You'll need to talk to people who have piercings but the chances are even if you embedded it in the skin it would grow out rather than in. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 8 '16 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ This feels largely like a Biology question, rather than Worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Feb 8 '16 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ Note that glueing anything to living skin permanently is a very non-trivial thing to begin with. The outermost layers of skin are dead material that is continuously being scaled off. Even the strongest glue will hardly last longer than 4-5 weeks. Now, granulation over a cut-out medallion-sized wound is certainly possible assuming you've cut out the basal layer, but it will take... forever (well, not forever, but months). Assuming medieval hygiene standards and medieval "wear", no way. Plus, you will not have what you commonly understand when you say "skin". $\endgroup$ – Damon Feb 8 '16 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ This question is vaguely disturbing in a way I can't quite put my finger on. $\endgroup$ – MikeTheLiar Feb 8 '16 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ May I ask why exactly this would be off-topic? I looked at the helpcenter and I think my question fits in this category: "How to achieve a specified effect in a defined world, including by the use of biology, technology or magic, while maintaning in-universe consistency." since I am creating a race that needs to wear the amulet because otherwise they die. $\endgroup$ – Noralie Feb 8 '16 at 22:40
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You're better off with a bone amulet, but you can make stone work.

Without a special material coating (or special material), the skin will not grow over the object. In fact, even if you cut a hole for it and placed it in, it would be ejected during the healing. This is a feature of the body, not a bug. It's a good thing to not integrate things that stick into your wounds.

You can cut open the skin, place it underneath, and close the skin back up with sutures. This may prevent the object from auto-explanting, but there is no guarantee.

Anchor it.

You'll be better off cutting a hole in the skin and affixing the object to the sternum. Without proper treatment this might just lead to a wound that won't heal. This is because the skin won't affix to the object and will remain in a state of constant irritation (as with the dog collars others have mentioned). The key is to coat any smooth object with material that allows it to be osseointegrated and allows skin growth over the surface. We have such technology today (something I've mentioned in a previous answer): Intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthesis or ITAP. Translated to English that means, in-the-bone and through-the-skin limb replacement. The very cool thing about these prosthetics is that they attach directly in the bone and don't rest on a healed over stump.

The most famous patient, currently, for these special prosthetics is a cat named Oscar.

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For the medieval ages this is a difficult feat to achieve. You could use a bubbly epoxy to seal the stone and leave the surface amenable to osseointegration and dermal integration. Alternatively, if you use bone, very sterile bone, you can likely achieve the same effect.

But by creating this bone amulet, leaving the base of it as porous bone and the front as polished bone (or inlaid stone), you can have the amulet surgically attached to the sternum. This means skin will grow around the edges of the amulet, but not over the face of it. It will also be grown into the bone of the man and will remain for his entire life.

You also need to protect against infection.

As an extra precaution, you may want to make the amulet from one of his bones (perhaps the xiphoid process). This will help prevent rejection and will facilitate healing by integrating living bone, rather than simply a growth substrate.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, this would basically make it like a stubby horn. Bone fused to bone and through the skin. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Feb 8 '16 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ Note that a metal implant has been achieved on a human...once. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Feb 8 '16 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Draco18s Huh? There are millions of metal implants in humans. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 8 '16 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Noralie That is a situation where the skin doesn't heal. It remains an open wound with constant irritation of the skin and is very vulnerable to infection. It's not something that someone could survive with for very long. They would eventually succumb to one infection or another. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 8 '16 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Noralie If using stone is set in stone then you might just make it volcanic. A highly porous stone might be made to osseointegrate and allow skin grafting, not in reality, but it's far less of a stretch of the imagination. The skin won't grow over smooth stone, so anywhere you want exposed should be smooth, but skin needs somewhere to hold on and close the wound. The magic comes in for keeping infection out. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 8 '16 at 19:18
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So, here's the horrible story of a man named Zhang Chuanqiu. Mr. Chuanqiu was shackled in a Huang prison for at maximum 5 years. The skin on his arms grew around his chains because they were affixed extremely tightly. Here is an article describing his ordeal (and subsequent rescue!); the photos are extremely graphic, and I would recommend not looking at them.

So, your skin will in some cases heal around objects, much like a tree absorbs chains. However, it causes severe pain and infection because your body knows it's a foreign object. In my completely irrelevant opinion, I'd stick to "woo-magic amulet stays on magically".

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Ohnana, gross answer but a good one :) $\endgroup$ – James Feb 8 '16 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ I take no responsibility for any fluids leaving your body as a result of this post. $\endgroup$ – Ohnana Feb 8 '16 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ Hahahaha, you'll fit in just fine here. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 8 '16 at 20:13
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So when I was 12 I broke my wrist and wore a cast for almost 3 months. At school people would jokingly give me charity by sticking change down my cast but it couldn't come out once inside. When I finally got my cast off my skin had grown over the change. It was disgusting. My skin was blue, green, and in between purple and brown. Of course I needed antibiotics. So I think it could happen if it's in the right "environmental" conditions and it would be best to try something that your body would not reject or could potentially lead to infection or worse.....

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Also you might be interested in reading Why should I register my account?. Registering allows you stuff like voting and commenting everywhere. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 8 '18 at 8:50
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If you could something glue to the skin permanently (you'd need to stop skin from growing and producing fresh layers of dead skin cells ready to shed)... it would still stay outside. Permanent strong pressure can lead to desintegration and re-healing of the skin, like this poor chinese man learned. Happens uncomfortably common to mistreated animals, also there are quite,some human reports from more ancient times! Its not a clean process you want.

So... cutting. You want a.) skin attached to the amulet, which itself stays bare? b.) The amulet covered by skin, you just see the shape?

a.) In the bodymod scene this is called transdermal implant. Smaller ones (Microdermals) are rather stable. The skin indeed heals the shape of the embedded part inside. This larger part thus is well stuck inside the bag-shaped structure. Skin sheds - so all this material needs to be transported, cleaned away. Works on small thingies. Bid transdwrmals show way more complications, as this debris gets easily stuck, and than a feast for bacteria - which also attacks the healthy skin. Hurray infection. Still there are a lot of enthusiasts with healed stable transdermal implants around. Medieval hygiene? Nogo. Probably the medical solution is better, the skin just fuses to the accepted edge of the transdermal, the inner parts being integrated into connective tissue and (if applicable) bone. b.) Easy. You open a small cut, strech it, level the skin from the connective tissue with medical tools, do that a bit offside the cut, push the STERILE amulet into the prepared spece, stitch the cut. Heals in 2 weeks, the implant will get integrated into the connective tissue, its surface form will show on the skin in detail after a few more weeks. 3D Art Implants this is called, and they do reallycomplex motives in the bodymodificatio scene. It started with hard materials, (steel, titanium, PTFE) but this is somewhat prone to injuries which can result in rejection. Meanwhile most is done with implant grade silicone.

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