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Mol Med. 2002 Apr;8(4):200-9.

The effect of seed crystals of hydroxyapatite and brushite on the crystallization of calcium oxalate in undiluted human urine in vitro: implications for urinary stone pathogenesis.

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Department of Surgery, Flinders University School of Medicine, Flinders Medical Centre, Bedford Park, South Australia, Australia.



The aim of this study was to determine whether crystals of hydroxyapatite (HA) or brushite (BR) formed in urine promote the epitaxial deposition of calcium oxalate (CaOx) from undiluted human urine in vitro and thereby explain the occurrence of phosphate in the core of urinary stones consisting predominantly of CaOx.


Crystals of HA, BR, and CaOx were generated from human urine and their identity confirmed by X-ray analysis. Standard quantities of each crystal were then added to separate aliquots of pooled undiluted human urine and CaOx crystallization was induced by the addition of identical loads of sodium oxalate. Crystallization was monitored by Coulter Counter and (14) C-oxalate analysis and the precipitated crystals were examined by scanning electron microscopy.


In comparison with the control to which no seeds were added, addition of CaOx crystals increased the deposition of (14) C-oxalate by 23%. On the other hand, seeds of HA and BR had no effect. These findings were supported by Coulter Counter analysis, which showed that the average modal sizes of crystal particles precipitated in the presence of HA and BR seeds were indistinguishable from those in the control, whereas those deposited in the presence of CaOx were significantly larger. Scanning electron microscopy confirmed these results, demonstrating that large aggregates of CaOx dihydrates were formed in the presence of CaOx seeds, whereas BR and to a lesser extent HA seeds were scattered free on the filtration membrane and attached like barnacles on the surface of the freshly precipitated CaOx crystals.


Seed crystals of HA or BR do not promote CaOx deposition in urine in vitro and are therefore unlikely to influence CaOx crystal formation under physiologic conditions. However, binding of HA and BR crystals to, and their subsequent enclosure within, actively growing CaOx crystals might occur in vivo, thereby explaining the occurrence of mixed oxalate/phosphate stones.

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