Rapid bioinspired mineralization using cell membrane nanofragments and alkaline milieu†
Bone is a sophisticated organic–inorganic hybrid material, whose formation involves a complex spatio-temporal sequence of events regulated by the cells. A deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind bone mineralization at different size scales, and using a multidisciplinary approach, may uncover novel pathways for the design and fabrication of functional bone tissue in vitro. The objectives of this study were first to investigate the environmental factors that prime initial mineralization using the secondary ossification center as an in vivo model, and then to apply the obtained knowledge for rapid in vitro synthesis of bone-like tissue. First, the direct and robust measurement of pH showed that femur epiphysis is alkaline (pH ≅ 8.5) at the initial mineral stage at post-natal day 6. We showed that the alkaline milieu is decisive not only for alkaline phosphatase activity, which precedes mineral formation at P6, but also for determining initial mineral precipitation and spherical morphology. Next, engineering approaches were used to synthesize bone-like tissue based on alkaline milieu and artificial chondrocyte membrane nanofragments, previously shown to be the nucleation site for mineral formation. Interestingly, mineralization using artificial cell membrane nanofragments was achieved in just 1 day. Finally, ex vivo culture of femur epiphysis in alkaline pH strongly induced chondrocyte burst, which was previously shown to be the origin of chondrocyte membrane nanofragments, and also enhanced mineral formation. Taken together, these findings not only shed more light on the microenvironmental conditions that prime initial bone formation in vivo, but they also show that alkaline milieu can be used as an important factor for enhancing methods for in vitro synthesis of bone tissue.