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Bone Nanostructure Revealed by Electron Microscopy

Transmission electron cryomicroscopy (CryoTEM), also known as cryo-EM, is becoming increasingly popular in the structural biology field, as it allows visualization of biomacromolecule structures at near-atomic resolution. Different from X-ray crystallography, cryo-EM does not require sample crystallization, and allows observation in physiological environments by direct imaging of the intrinsic electron density. Therefore, the cryo-EM technology is superior for the structural characterization of biological macromolecules, especially for proteins that are difficult to crystallize, such as membrane protein and large protein complexes. With the advance of microscopy technologies, imaging hardware development and computational modeling, the electron microscopy technique has expanding applications not only in the biological filed, but also in pharmaceutical industry, material science, geological science, mineral science and so on.

Bones have very complex and hierarchical structure, and are principally composed of nano-hydroxyapatite and type-1 collagen. As essential organ tissue, bones play very important roles in supporting and protecting the various organs within the body. Therefore, bone defects can be devastating to human bodies and can develop into life-threatening diseases. A recently developed method for rectifying bone defect is synthetic bone grafting. Recently, it has been revealed that bone mineral is hierarchically assembled with needle-shaped mineral units. The mineral units then merge laterally to form platelets that organized into stacks of roughly parallel platelets. A structural model of the mineral phase was presented, which gives further insight into biomaterial engineering of bone tissues (Figure 1).

Creative Biostructure is devoted to advancing life sciences and medical researches with solid knowledge background and first-class biotechnology platforms. We provide state-of -the-art techniques supported by the most advanced experimental facilities to reveal nanostructure of bones, and to provide intellectual insights into polymer nanocomposites for bone graft substitute.

Fig. 1 Proposed model of crystal organization in bones. Shown are tomograms reconstructed from a STEM tilt series. The mineral organizations are displayed in different directions.

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  1. Natalie Reznikov, Matthew Bilton et. al. Fractal-like hierarchical organization of bone begins at the nanoscale. Science. 2018; 360.
  2. Jayachandran Venkatesan, Se-Kwon Kim, Nano-Hydroxyapatite Composite Biomaterials for Bone Tissue Engineering. J Biomed Nanotechnol. 2014; 10 (10): 3124-3140.

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