An artificial substance similar to bone imitates the way a true bone grows at atomic level


Researchers at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have discovered how our bones are growing at atomic level and show how unstructured mass is ordered in a fully ordered bone structure. Discovery offers new insights that could bring improved new implants, as well as increase knowledge of bone diseases, such as osteoporosis.

Bones in our body grow through several stages, with atoms and molecules merging and those larger groups combining. One early stage in the growth process is the crystallization of calcium phosphate molecules, which means that they are transformed from amorphous to an ordered structure. Many stages of this transformation were previously a mystery; now, with a research project dealing with the imitation of the way of making our bones, researchers are able to follow this crystallization process at atomic level. Their results are now published in the science journal Nature Communications.

"The wonderful thing about this project is to show how they are being used and the basic research hand-in-hand. Our project originally focused on creating artificial biomaterials, but the material proved to be an excellent tool for studying bone building processes. nature by creating an artificial copy. Then we used this copy to return and explore nature, "says Martin Andersson, a chemistry professor of materials at Chalmers and the study director.

Researchers developed a method for creating artificial bone with the addition of production or 3D printing. The resulting structure is built in the same way, with the same characteristics as the true bone. Once fully developed, it will allow the creation of natural implants that could replace the metal and plastics technologies that are currently being used. As the group began to imitate the natural functions of the bone tissue, they saw that they created the possibility of studying this phenomenon in an environment that is very similar to the living tissue environment.

An artificial substance similar to the bones, it hinted how the natural bone is growing. The smallest structural building blocks in the skeleton are groups of a series consisting of a protein collagen. For the mineralization of these strands, cells send spherical particles known as vesicles containing calcium phosphate. These vesicles release calcium phosphate into confined spaces between collagen strings. There, calcium phosphate begins to transform from an amorphous mass into an ordered crystal structure, which creates the characteristic features of the bone of exceptional resistance to impacts and bending.
The researchers followed this cycle using electronic microscopes and now in their article show how this is happening at the atomic level. Despite the fact that bone crystallization naturally occurs in a biological environment, it is not a biological process. Instead, its own physical properties of calcium phosphate determine how it is crystallized and built according to the laws of thermodynamics. Molecules are focused on a site where the level of energy is the lowest, which results in the construction of a completely crystallized structure.

"In the framework of a portable electronic microscope we could monitor the phases of how the material was transformed into a structured structure, which enabled it to achieve the lowest possible level of energy and thus a more stable state", says dr. Antiope Lotsari, a researcher in the Martin Andersson Group who performed experiments with electron microscopy.
Chalmers researchers are the first to show in high resolution what happens when bone crystallize. The results could have an effect on the treatment of many diseases associated with bone.

"Our results can be important for the treatment of bone diseases, such as osteoporosis, which is a common disease today, especially for older women. Osteoporosis is when there is an imbalance between how quickly the bones break down and re-shape, what is natural processes in the body, "says Martin Andersson.

Current medicines for osteoporosis that affect this imbalance could improve this new knowledge. We hope that with greater accuracy we will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of current medicines and try with different substances in order to examine how they hinder or stimulate bone growth.



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