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Editor's e-Note
Focusing on collagen fibers may yield new insight into faster bone healing. In a recent article, researchers examine how tiny gaps in collagen’s fiber structure contribute to the nucleation of calcium phosphate, a necessary aspect of bone formation and maintenance.

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— Barbara Worthington, editor
e-News Exclusive
Study Offers Insights Into Bone Development

A team of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis looked deep within collagen fibers to learn how the body forms new bone and teeth, seeking insights into faster bone healing and new biomaterials.

Young-Shin Jun, PhD, SM, MS, a professor of energy and environmental and chemical engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and director of the university’s Environmental NanoChemistry Lab, leads a team of experts in nucleation, the initial step in forming a solid phase in a fluid system.

While nucleation of minerals in bone and teeth is not well understood, researchers know that bone minerals form inside of collagen, the main protein found in skin and other connective tissues. Jun and Doyoon Kim, a doctoral student in her lab, studied how miniscule gaps in collagen’s fiber structure facilitate the nucleation of calcium phosphate, which is necessary for bone formation and maintenance.

The findings, recently published in Nature Communications, provide a new view into the current theory of calcium phosphate nucleation in a confined space.

To observe nucleation in a collagen gap—about 2 nm high and 40 nm wide—the team studied calcium phosphate nucleation with in situ small-angle X-ray scattering at the Advanced Photon Source in Argonne National Lab. They found that without an inhibitor, nucleation initially took place outside of the collagen gap. When they added an inhibitor, the process occurred mainly within the collagen gap. Jun says the extremely confined space in the collagen gap allows calcium phosphate to form only along the length of the gap and minimizes surface interactions with the gap sidewalls. In other words, the topography of the collagen gap decreases the energy cost and enables nucleation.

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In this e-Newsletter
Other Geriatrics News
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An article in The Washington Post points out that research shows there’s no scientific evidence that supplements marketed for memory enhancement can prevent mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

Ageism Pervasive Among Elders
A negative attitude toward older adults is common even in elder living communities, according to an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Vitamins Remain Popular Among Older Americans
Older adults continue to spend money on and consume supplements that have been shown to be ineffective, according to an article at Kaiser Health News.
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