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ACS Nano. 2017 Jul 25;11(7):6717-6727. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.7b01044. Epub 2017 Jul 5.

Nacre Topography Produces Higher Crystallinity in Bone than Chemically Induced Osteogenesis.

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School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, College of Science and Engineering, University of Glasgow , Gregory Building, Glasgow G12 8QQ, United Kingdom.
Scottish Polyomics Facility, Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre, College of Medical, Veterinary, and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow , Garscube Estate, Glasgow G61 1QH, United Kingdom.
Centre for Cell Engineering, Institute of Molecular, Cell, and Systems Biology, College of Medical, Veterinary, and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow , Joseph Black Building, Glasgow G12 8QQ, United Kingdom.
Division of Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering, University of Glasgow , Glasgow G12 8LT, United Kingdom.
Division of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling , Cottrell Building, Stirling FK9 4LA, United Kingdom.


It is counterintuitive that invertebrate shells can induce bone formation, yet nacre, or mother of pearl, from marine shells is both osteoinductive and osteointegrative. Nacre is composed of aragonite (calcium carbonate) and induces production of vertebrate bone (calcium phosphate). Exploited by the Mayans for dental implants, this remarkable phenomenon has been confirmed in vitro and in vivo, yet the characteristic of nacre that induces bone formation remains unknown. By isolating nacre topography from its inherent chemistry in the production of polycaprolactone (PCL) nacre replica, we show that, for mesenchymal stem cells, nacre topography is osteoinductive. Gene expression of specific bone marker proteins, osteopontin, osteocalcin, osteonectin, and osterix, is increased 10-, 2-, 1.7-, and 1.8-fold, respectively, when compared to planar PCL. Furthermore, we demonstrate that bone tissue that forms in response to the physical topographical features of nacre has a higher crystallinity than bone formed in response to chemical cues with a full width half-maximum for PO43- Raman shift of 7.6 ± 0.7 for mineral produced in response to nacre replica compared to a much broader 34.6 ± 10.1 in response to standard osteoinductive medium. These differences in mineral product are underpinned by differences in cellular metabolism. This observation can be exploited in the design of bone therapies; a matter that is most pressing in light of a rapidly aging human population.


biomaterials; bone; differentiation; nacre; osteogenesis

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