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Biomineralization - the organic-inorganic interfacial sciences

Yung-Ching Chien, PhD

The processes by which organisms form minerals are referred to as biomineralization. Many organisms can exert biological controls over mineral formation, and form biominerals as composite materials consisting of both mineral and organic constituents. They can use biomolecules to imprint morphological or structural information, such as chirality. These unique morphologies and structures of biominerals are accurately replicated via genetically regulated-mineralization processes for biologic functional purposes, such as attaining particular hardness for structural support or mechanical resistance. Biominerals exist as composites or aggregations of nanocrystal with a mosaic of domains delimited by organic layers. A graded structure is often present in biominerals composite, where gradual changes in the matrix and mineral interphases, or sudden changes at interfaces, would variably alter the physicochemical and functional properties. My research has been characterized the short-range and long-range structures and assembly of biominerals, mostly utilizing high resolution microscopic techniques, such as AFM, SEM, micro-XCT, TEM and so on. Particularly, the extensive collagenous matrix network in vertebrate mineralized tissues, which is initially important for tissue construction and mineralization, might then become conduit spaces that facilitate and guides dissolution of biominerals; this has been found in mineralizing/demineralization biologic systems such as avian eggshell and human dentin.
Because of the unusual dissolution process of dentin imposed by bacteria, it is very challenging to remineralize/mineralize dentin caries. In quest of innovative approach for dentin remineralization, my current research aims at developing a new category of peptide-like polymer constituting of N-substituted glycines (peptoids) to remineralize and reconstruct dentin caries in biomimetic approaches. The goal is to establish effective and economic therapy with these innovative approaches in clinic in the near future.

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