A Google Earth Approach to Understanding Collagen Mineralization

Research group

The Biochemistry of Mineralized Tissues Group focuses on biomineralization mechanisms in human systems in physiological as well as pathological situations. 

Central to the groups' research is the ERC Advanced Investigator project A Google Earth Approach to Understanding Collagen Mineralization (COLMIN, Project Leader Prof Nico Sommerdijk).

The main focus of COLMIN is to understand the mechanisms of collagen mineralization in bone, where the growth of inorganic carbonated hydroxyapatite (cHAP) is directed by the dynamic interaction with collagen, non-collagenous proteins (NCPs), and carbohydrates over different hierarchical levels, from the nanometer to the multi-micron scale. In addition, we investigate pathological mineralization processes. Understanding these processes not only builds our fundamental understanding of bone formation but is also crucial for the development of treatments for bone defects and other mineralization-related diseases.

We use both top-down (tissues) and bottom-up (cell culture) approaches to investigate the chemistry and structure of the extracellular matrix. To capture the dynamics of mineral formation processes, we are using 2D and 3D in vitro model systems - including bone-on-a-chip systems and stem cells - aiming for live imaging with nanoscale resolution. To unravel the detailed ultrastructure of the mineralized/affected tissues, we use advanced correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM), as well as spectroscopy, which are all available within the Electron Microscopy Center of  the RTC Microscopy of Radboudumc.

To achieve our goals, we bring together many disciplines, including chemical biology, biochemistry, materials chemistry, spectroscopy, and advanced electron microscopy. Our research also involves collaborations with (inter)national top experts in various areas, with companies to push the limits of our imaging capabilities, and with clinicians to apply our knowledge in future patient care.

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