Building Blocks of Human Bone Presented in New Study

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Researchers at Illinois Institute of Technology have partnered with an international team of scientists to uncover the fundamental structure for the development of bone.

The study authors from the University of Leeds and Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences called upon Illinois Tech Professor of Biology and Biomedical Engineering Joseph Orgel to conduct an in-depth analysis as a part of an international collaborative team that has published a groundbreaking study in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications

Titled “Intermolecular Channels Direct Crystal Orientation in Mineralized Collagen,” the research presents a new bedrock understanding of how bones are formed, potentially ushering in a new era of artificial bone growth as a clinical medical treatment. The study’s authors found channels within the molecular organization of collagen—formed from the structure of the molecules—that enable bone mineral to form.

“This has long been considered one of the most pressing questions in structural biology, and I was thrilled to be a part of such an exciting collaborative effort to unearth these findings,” Orgel says. “Mapping out exactly what makes bone is the first step in being able to grow and regenerate bone in a clinical setting. Equipped with this new fundamental understanding, the implications on the lives of medical patients around the world could be immense.”

This research represents the most in-depth understanding of the complex composition of bone to date, and in doing so, promises to unlock the exceptional mechanical properties that result from this collagen structure and the mineral that forms within it.

“Professor Orgel’s involvement in this international effort of leading scientists encapsulates Illinois Tech’s commitment to collaborating on some of the most exciting developments in science and technology from right here on the South Side of Chicago,” says Peter Kilpatrick, Illinois Tech provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “We applaud Joseph and the rest of this global research team for these outstanding findings.”

Photo: Illinois Tech Professor of Biology and Biomedical Engineering Joseph Orgel