On Bone, Shells, and More: Understanding Nature?s Strategies for the Formation of Mineralised Tissues

Condensed Matter lunchtime seminar

On Bone, Shells, and More: Understanding Nature?s Strategies for the Formation of Mineralised Tissues

  • Event time: 1:00pm
  • Event date: 24th November 2014
  • Speaker: Dr. Fabio Nudelman (School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh)
  • Location: Room 2511,

Event details

In nature, organisms from all 5 kingdoms produce more than 60 different minerals that fulfil a wide variety of functions. Examples are magnetite particles used by bacteria to navigate through Earth?s magnetic field; shells and coral skeletons that give protection for the animals; and vertebrate bone that provide mechanical support and protection for the body. What all these biominerals have in common is that they are organic-inorganic composite materials, where the formation of the mineral is controlled by the biopolymers that compose the organic phase.

Our current focus is on bone formation and on biogenic hierarchical crystals of calcite, formed by marine algae. Bone is a hierarchically structured biocomposite whose main building block is the mineralized collagen fibril, where the mineral phase is composed of carbonated hydroxyapatite crystals. I will discuss how we can investigate the self-assembly mechanisms of collagen and exploit its mineralisation-directing properties to control and template the formation of other types of minerals, namely calcium carbonate and iron oxide. Such an approach is very valuable, first because it provided important insights on the mechanisms through which collagen controls and templates the formation of apatite crystals during bone formation. Second, it may lead to the development of novel organic-inorganic hybrid materials that exploit the templating capabilities of collagen and its tensile strength. On the topic of calcite biomineralisation, I will discuss the effect of acidic polysaccharides on the nucleation and growth of calcium carbonate crystals, combining cryo-transmission electron microscopy (cryoTEM) with optical and scanning electron microscopy.

This is a weekly series of informal talks given primarily by members of the soft condensed matter and statistical mechanics groups, but is also open to members of other groups and external visitors. The aim of the series is to promote discussion and learning of various topics at a level suitable to the broad background of the group. Everyone is welcome to attend..

Find out more about Condensed Matter lunchtime seminars.