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Scientists Make Bone in the Lab

Bob Michaels

October 28, 2010

2 Min Read
Scientists Make Bone in the Lab

Nico Sommerdijk from Eindhoven University of Technology has succeeded in growing bone in his laborabory. (Photo by Bart van Overbeeke)

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e; Netherlands) have succeeded in mimicking the process of bone formation in the laboratory and in visualizing the process in great detail, ScienceDaily reports. The results will be published in the December edition of Nature Materials.

Bone consists of fibers of collagen in which calcium phosphate is deposited in the form of nanocrystals. Now, the team of scientists under Nico Sommerdijk from the department of chemical engineering and chemistry at TU/e have been able to mimic the growth of calcium phosphate inside the collagen, just as it happens in the human body.

It has long been thought that collagen was only a template for the deposition of calcium phosphate and that bone formation was controlled by specialized biomolecules. However, the images taken by the Eindhoven researchers show that the collagen fibers themselves control the mineral formation process and thereby direct bone formation. The biomolecules have proved to have a different role in the mineralization process: They keep the calcium phosphate in solution until mineral growth starts.

Whlie Sommerdijk's group itself does not intend to commercialize its findings, the Italian research institute ISTEC is already developing new bone implants based on the researchers' work. The newly gained knowledge about bone formation has opened the door to a new research area for Sommerdijk's group. He is confident that the same principles can be used to make various kinds of nanomaterials. Sommerdijk and researchers at ISTEC are starting with magnetite, a magnetic material that can be used as biomarker or for data storage. But their ambitions go even further. "I am seriously convinced that we can make all kinds of materials using these principles," says Sommerdijk. He is very enthusiastic about the new research direction. "The biomimetic formation of magnetic materials is a new area that is still completely unexplored."

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