Nav: Home

New cellular insights in bone development

April 06, 2018

Most of us don't think about our teeth and bones until one aches or breaks. A team of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis looked deep within collagen fibers to see how the body forms new bone and teeth, seeking insights into faster bone healing and new biomaterials.

Young-Shin Jun, professor of energy, environmental & chemical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and director of the Environmental NanoChemistry Lab, leads a team of experts in nucleation, the initial step in forming a solid phase in a fluid system.

While nucleation of minerals in bone and teeth is not well understood, researchers do know that bone minerals form inside of collagen, the main protein found in skin and other connective tissues. Jun and Doyoon Kim, a doctoral student in her lab, studied how miniscule gaps in collagen's fiber structure facilitate the nucleation of calcium phosphate, which is necessary for bone formation and maintenance.

The findings, recently published in Nature Communications, provide a new view into the current theory of calcium phosphate nucleation in a confined space.

To observe nucleation in a collagen gap -- about 2 nanometers high and 40 nanometers wide -- the team studied calcium phosphate nucleation with in situ small-angle X-ray scattering at the Advanced Photon Source in Argonne National Lab. They found that without an inhibitor, nucleation initially took place outside of the collagen gap. When they added an inhibitor, the process occurred mainly within the collagen gap. Jun said the extremely confined space in the collagen gap allows calcium phosphate to form only along the length of the gap and minimizes surface interactions with the gap sidewalls. In other words, the topography of the collagen gap decreases the energy cost and enables nucleation.

"When we understand how new bone forms, we can modulate where it should form," Jun said. "Previously, we thought that collagen fibrils could serve as passive templates, however, this study confirmed that collagen fibrils play an active role in biomineralization by controlling nucleation pathways and energy barriers. If we can tweak the chemistry and send signals to form bone minerals faster or stronger, that would be helpful to the medical field."

While this study focused on the biological aspects of nucleation, Jun said an advanced understanding of nucleation in confinement also applies to chemical engineering, materials science and environmental science and engineering.

"Confined space is a somewhat exotic space that we have not explored much, and we are always thinking about new material formation without any limitation of space," Jun said. "However, there are so many confined spaces, such as pores in geomedia in subsurface environments or in water filtration membranes, where calcium carbonate or calcium sulfate form as scale. This paper is a snapshot of one health aspect, but the new knowledge can be applied broadly to energy systems and water systems."
-end-


Washington University in St. Louis

Related Engineering Articles:

Engineering a new cancer detection tool
E. coli may have potentially harmful effects but scientists in Australia have discovered this bacterium produces a toxin which binds to an unusual sugar that is part of carbohydrate structures present on cells not usually produced by healthy cells.
Engineering heart valves for the many
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the University of Zurich announced today a cross-institutional team effort to generate a functional heart valve replacement with the capacity for repair, regeneration, and growth.
Geosciences-inspired engineering
The Mackenzie Dike Swarm and the roughly 120 other known giant dike swarms located across the planet may also provide useful information about efficient extraction of oil and natural gas in today's modern world.
Engineering success
Academically strong, low-income would-be engineers get the boost they need to complete their undergraduate degrees.
HKU Engineering Professor Ron Hui named a Fellow by the UK Royal Academy of Engineering
Professor Ron Hui, Chair Professor of Power Electronics and Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Hong Kong, has been named a Fellow by the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, one of the most prestigious national academies.
Engineering a better biofuel
The often-maligned E. coli bacteria has powerhouse potential: in the lab, it has the ability to crank out fuels, pharmaceuticals and other useful products at a rapid rate.
Pascali honored for contributions to engineering education
Raresh Pascali, instructional associate professor in the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program at the University of Houston, has been named the 2016 recipient of the Ross Kastor Educator Award.
Scaling up tissue engineering
A team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A.
Engineering material magic
University of Utah engineers have discovered a new kind of 2-D semiconducting material for electronics that opens the door for much speedier computers and smartphones that also consume a lot less power.
Engineering academic elected a Fellow of the IEEE
A University of Bristol academic has been elected a Fellow of the world's largest and most prestigious professional association for the advancement of technology.

Related Engineering Reading:

Engineering: An Illustrated History from Ancient Craft to Modern Technology (100 Ponderables)
by Tom Jackson (Editor) (Author), Tom Jackson (Editor)

Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam, 13th Ed
by Michael R. Lindeburg PE (Author)

Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction
by William D. Callister Jr. (Author), David G. Rethwisch (Author)

Engineering Mechanics: Dynamics (14th Edition)
by Russell C. Hibbeler (Author)

Engineering Economic Analysis
by Donald G. Newnan (Author), Ted G. Eschenbach (Author), Jerome P. Lavelle (Author)

Probability and Statistics for Engineering and the Sciences
by Jay L. Devore (Author)

The Engineering Design of Systems: Models and Methods (Wiley Series in Systems Engineering and Management)
by Dennis M. Buede (Author), William D. Miller (Author)

Microwave Engineering
by David M. Pozar (Author)

SE Structural Engineering Reference Manual
by Alan Williams PhD SE FICE C Eng (Author)

Elements of Chemical Reaction Engineering (5th Edition) (Prentice Hall International Series in the Physical and Chemical Engineering Sciences)
by H. Scott Fogler (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Approaching With Kindness
We often forget to say the words "thank you." But can those two words change how you — and those around you — look at the world? This hour, TED speakers on the power of gratitude and appreciation. Guests include author AJ Jacobs, author and former baseball player Mike Robbins, Dr. Laura Trice, Professor of Management Christine Porath, and former Danish politician Özlem Cekic.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#509 Anisogamy: The Beginning of Male and Female
This week we discuss how the sperm and egg came to be, and how a difference of reproductive interest has led to sexual conflict in bed bugs. We'll be speaking with Dr. Geoff Parker, an evolutionary biologist credited with developing a theory to explain the evolution of two sexes, about anisogamy, sexual reproduction through the fusion of two different gametes: the egg and the sperm. Then we'll speak with Dr. Roberto Pereira, research scientist in urban entomology at the University of Florida, about traumatic insemination in bed bugs.