I heard a Christian lecturer suggest that the rib is the only bone in the body that can regenerate if it is removed. Naturally, the implication is that this, if true is a possible reason that God removed one of Adam's ribs to make Eve rather than another bone. Of course, if God could make Eve from one of Adam's ribs, He could regenerate any bone.
I set out to find out of this is true by searching the internet. There is surprisingly little information on the subject. What follows are three anecdotal stories that suggest that the rib can grow back-if care is taken.
Adam and that 'missing' rib, by Carl Wieland
Creation Ex Nihilo 21, September–November 1999
A head-on impact with a fully laden fuel tanker at highway speeds is an experience I would hope for none to share. The surprise was to have survived it—God clearly had other plans for me.
Painting:Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole, 1828. Click and drag to resize. Script from The Java Script Source
During the 5 1/2 months in hospital, and for years afterwards, I had a series of operations to reconstruct various parts of me, particularly the bones of my face.
These operations often required using my own bone for grafting. I noticed that the plastic surgeon would keep going back to the right side of my ribcage, through the same horizontal scar, actually, to get more bone for these procedures.
One day, I asked him why he hadn't 'run out of bone'. He looked at me blankly, and then explained that he and his team took the whole rib out, each time. 'We leave the periosteum intact, so the rib usually just grows right back again.'
Despite having trained and practiced as a family doctor, I was intrigued; I had never realized this before. The periosteum (the literal meaning of this word is 'around the bone') is a membrane that covers every bone—it's the reason you can get things stuck between your teeth while gnawing on a leg of lamb, for instance.
The periosteum contains cells that can manufacture new bone. Particularly in young people, 'rib periosteum has a remarkable ability to regenerate bone, perhaps more so than any other bone'.
Thoracic (chest) surgeons routinely remove ribs, and these often grow back, in whole or in part. A lot depends on the care with which the rib is removed; it needs to be 'peeled' out of its periosteum to leave this membrane as intact as possible.
A major reason why the rib is the ideal situation for such regeneration is that the attached intercostal muscles provide it with a good blood supply. When the surgeon originally told me this, my immediate thought was—'Wow, that's really neat, Adam didn't have to walk around with a defect!'
In Genesis 2:21, referring to the creation of Eve, we read: 'And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept. And He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh underneath.'
Surprisingly, some Christians have grown up believing that men have one less rib than women. They have the same number, of course. Some anti-creationists have used the fact that men don't have any missing ribs today to mock a literal Genesis.
For years before my accident, when asked about this, I would give a reply something like this:
'If your father had lost his finger in a circular saw, would you really expect all his children to have one less finger, too? Or all of his sons, but not his daughters? Of course not. The DNA instructions that are passed on from parent to child are in the form of a code, like writing—removing a rib (or finger) would not change the instructions on the code, so all the offspring will have all their ribs (or fingers).'
While all that is still very true and pertinent, this information about rib regrowth adds a new and fascinating dimension. God designed the rib, along with the periosteum.
He would certainly have known how to remove the rib in such a way that it would later grow back, just as ribs still do today—without requiring any sort of special miracle.
Adam would not have had any permanent area of weakness in his rib cage, but would have had, for all of the hundreds of years of his life, the same number of ribs that you and I have today.
Another Story of Regeneration
...The good news is that I will go in first thing in the morning and be able to come home the same day. At first he said they'd do the surgery in the OR they have in the basement of their offices.
He looked at our faces and said, "Well, maybe it would be better to do it at the hospital." I was like, "definitely!" There's no way I want to be in the basement of a doctor's office if something goes wrong.
This is a general anesthesia procedure - I mean I'm having my freaking rib removed! I'll take the OR at the real hospital, thank you very much.
Speaking of having my rib taken out... Get this: He said that most likely my rib will GROW BACK. How whacky is that? I had no idea that your ribs could regenerate! Why can't arms and legs do that???
Final Story of Regeneration
"I had a rib removed when I was 16. Because it was grinding on my hip, due to my bottom curve, The Dr's did it because of the pain,, But within 5 years the rib grew back.
It is not as hard as the one we cut out,, (bone grows back more like cartilige) softer but now it has grown two points like a fork or a deer antler. but it dosen't bother me. and there was really no recovery time, I was only in the hospital for the surgery. and I was up and walking the 2nd day I was home." ...Scoliosis World Message Board