Monitoring biomineralization of biomaterials in vivo

N. Mehrban1, J. Bowen2

'University College London, London, United Kingdom; 2The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

I ntroduction

Changes in physiological chemistry and morphology are caused by a number of factors including pH, mechanical stresses induced by the natural movement of tissue, and proteins excreted by surrounding cells and tissues, all of which can lead to mineralization. While healthy tissue follow a specific mineralization process, diseased and damaged tissue often require external intervention. For mineralized tissue, often this intervention is in the form of surgery and when this fails, biomaterials can be introduced to the wound site in the hope that the materials will integrate with surrounding healthy tissue and provide mechanical stability, thus restoring the patient’s health.

Biomineralization is a dynamic process with distinct phases, and the monitoring techniques for these events must be able to detect the chemical and physical changes occurring. Although in vitro experiments can supply us with a wealth of knowledge on how these conditions may affect the biomaterial, both individually and in combination, it is difficult to translate these data to in vivo environments due to the increased chemical and mechanical complexity.

In this chapter, we describe the biomineralization process and explain how in vitro research can help us to identify the natural repair process of damaged mineralized tissue. We also describe how technological advancements have improved our ability to probe deeper into understanding this repair process and how noninvasive clinical technologies have become faster, safer, and cheaper to use, while also providing more accurate data. These data can be directly translated into creating better materials for repairing damaged tissue and improving patient care with minimal discomfort.

It should be noted that the field of in vivo biomaterial monitoring is one that is rapidly changing with existing technologies being merged and new analysis methods created at a very fast pace. Readers should therefore not treat the technologies described herein as an exhaustive list of those currently available. This chapter is intended to provide a taste of the range of techniques in use today.

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