Breakthrough Clemson research appears in Science

April 09, 2004

CLEMSON -- Today's issue of Science reports a discovery by a Clemson scientist that challenges 40 years of marine biomineralization research. The internationally respected journal describes the Clemson team's discovery that Eastern Oyster shell growth begins within blood cells. The research advances the understanding of how animals make hard tissue such as shell, bone and teeth. The new research may lead to cures to disease and bone replacement materials.

For 40 years, scientists have theorized that an organic mixture excreted from mantle tissue, which forms oyster skin, induced shell growth.

"New technologies are giving scientists the tools they need to answer the tough questions," said Andrew Mount, adjunct assistant professor of biological sciences at Clemson University and lead author of the article.

When the Clemson researchers used a scanning electron microscope -- a microscope that detects electrons instead of light -- to study immune blood cells from oysters, they discovered that some cells contain crystals.

Based on their observations, the research team concluded that the intracellular crystals are used to form shell. They observed rhombohedral-shaped crystals, leading the researchers to theorize that they were calcium carbonate -- a basic substance in hard tissue. They also observed the number of crystal-bearing cells increased 300 percent when an oyster is healing a shell fracture. Furthermore, the cells travel to the site of shell formation to deposit the crystals.

Scientists and engineers hope that an understanding of biomineralization, the process by which living creatures turn elements into crystals, will lead to breakthroughs in medical and material sciences.

"Nature exhibits exquisite control over the size, shape and organization of crystals," Mount said, adding if engineers can mimic nature, they could build bone replacements, grow crystal communication equipment and design paper-thin protective suits.

"What's really exciting is that this research might lead to a cure for osteoporosis," said Shital Patel, 29, a Clemson graduate student in the department of biological sciences.

An estimated 10 million people have osteoporosis, and another 34 million with low bone mass are at risk of developing the disease, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation's Web site.

Mount, 46, earned his doctorate in zoology from Clemson University in 1999. Co-authors are Alfred Wheeler, chairman of the Clemson biological sciences department; Rajesh Paradkar, with Dow Chemical Company, and Dennis Snider.
-end-
A research leader in advanced materials, automotive engineering, bioengineering and genomics, Clemson University is located in Clemson, S.C. Founded in 1889, the university is a legacy of Thomas Green Clemson who willed his Fort Hill plantation home and surrounding lands to the state of South Carolina to establish "a seminary of high learning." Today, Clemson is a nationally recognized research university, where approximately 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students pursue more than 70 degree programs in five academic colleges. A land-grant university, Clemson serves citizens, communities and businesses statewide through Public Service Activities that include research, regulatory and extension services. Connect to www.clemson.edu and www.clemson.edu/aorl for more information.

Clemson University

Related Osteoporosis Articles from Brightsurf:

New opportunities for detecting osteoporosis
Osteoporosis can be detected through low dose computed tomography (LDCT) imaging tests performed for lung cancer screening or other purposes.

Oxytocin can help prevent osteoporosis
In a laboratory experiment with rats, Brazilian researchers succeeded in reversing natural processes associated with aging that lead to loss of bone density and strength.

New strategy against osteoporosis
An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.

New review on management of osteoporosis in premenopausal women
An IOF and ECTS Working Group have published an updated review of literature published after 2017 on premenopausal osteoporosis.

Cardiac CT can double as osteoporosis test
Cardiac CT exams performed to assess heart health also provide an effective way to screen for osteoporosis, potentially speeding treatment to the previously undiagnosed, according to a new study.

Osteoporosis treatment may also protect against pneumonia
A recent study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates (N-BPs) such as alendronate, which are widely used to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis, are linked with lower risks of pneumonia and of dying from pneumonia.

New pharmaceutical target reverses osteoporosis in mice
Biomedical engineers at Duke University have discovered that an adenosine receptor called A2B can be pharmaceutically activated to reverse bone degradation caused by osteoporosis in mouse models of the disease.

A link between mitochondrial damage and osteoporosis
In healthy people, a tightly controlled process balances out the activity of osteoblasts, which build bone, and osteoclasts, which break it down.

Many stroke patients not screened for osteoporosis, despite known risks
Many stroke survivors have an increased risk of osteoporosis, falls or breaks when compared to healthy people.

Many postmenopausal women do not receive treatment for osteoporosis
The benefits of treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women outweigh the perceived risks, according to a Clinical Practice Guideline issued today by the Endocrine Society.

Read More: Osteoporosis News and Osteoporosis Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.