From Bones to Stones- Mimicking Hard Tissue Formation in the Beaker

02/16/2015 - 4:00pm
Laurie Gower, Ph.D., Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, UF
Communicore, Room C1-7

The research in Gower’s Biomimetics Laboratory is focused on the development of in vitro model systems for examining the physico-chemical mechanisms involved in biomineralization, with emphasis on the roles that proteins play in modulating the biological mineralization process.  Our group has been able to emulate many of the enigmatic features found in biominerals, ranging from the non-equilibrium morphologies of calcium carbonate crystals found in invertebrate exoskeletons, to the mineralization of collagen in vertebrate bones and teeth, to the concentrically laminated spherulites found in pathological biominerals such as kidney stones.  We have therefore proposed a unifying hypothesis that a non-classical crystallization pathway, which we call the polymer-induced liquid-precursor (PILP) process, is involved in the formation of many biominerals.  The non-specificity of this process therefore lends itself to a wide variety of potential applications in hard tissue engineering and composite biomaterials.  For example, the calcium carbonate PILP system is being used to deposit mineral coatings around emulsion droplets and liposomes, for the fabrication of biodegradable core-shell microcapsules for controlled release applications.  In this talk for a BME audience, I will predominantly focus on our biomimetic approach towards hard tissue engineering, where we believe that by mimicking bone’s hierarchical structure, we will be able to emulate both bone’s mechanical properties as well as its bioactivity.  Our long-term goal is to develop load-bearing bioresorbable bone substitutes, where we believe the bone-like composition and structure of our “biomimetic bone” will be recognized by cells, such that the composites can retain their load-bearing capacity as they are gradually remodeled through the natural bone multicellular unit (BMU).   We are also investigating a biomimetic approach to the repair of dental caries through the PILP-mineralization of demineralized lesions.  In the case of pathological biominerals, we are developing a model system of the two stages of nephrolithiasis (in idiopathic stone formation), with the goal of deciphering the role that urinary proteins might play in either the promotion or inhibition of these pathological deposits, and ultimately lead to new approaches for the prevention or treatment of kidney stones.  In conclusion, the goal of this talk is to illustrate some of the exciting possibilities provided by the biomimetic approach, ranging from scientific inquiry of biomineralizing systems to engineering applications of novel composite materials.

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