Navigation Links
Geoscientists unearth mineral-making secrets potentially useful for new technologies
Date:8/1/2013

Sugars are widely known as important sources of energy for all organisms.

Now, Virginia Tech researchers have discovered that certain types of sugars, known as polysaccharides, may also control the timing and placement of minerals that animals use to produce hard structures such as shells and exoskeletons of mollusks, lobsters, and shrimp.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Anthony Giuffre, a graduate student in the Department of Geosciences, and his research advisor, Patricia Dove, a University Distinguished Professor in the College of Science , propose a theory of how charged and uncharged sugars can be used to create shells and skeletons.

"Nature had 500 million years to become an amazing materials chemist," said Dove, the C.P. Miles Professor of Geosciences. "Here we are working in the most recent seconds of geologic time to harness those abilities. We can put that knowledge to work for new environmental, medical, and materials-based technologies, such as the developing new synthetic materials for bone repairs or tissue implants."

Proteins have gotten most of the attention in studies of how organic materials control the initial step of making the first tiny crystals that organisms use to build structures that help them move and protect themselves. This process of mineral nucleation is similar to how a pearl or a raindrop forms around a single speck, or nucleus.

"The old picture of divisions between the roles of proteins and polysaccharides melt away when one realizes the underlying chemical controls," Dove said. "In our efforts to establish a physical basis for how macromolecule chemistry controls biomineral nucleation, we are slowly deciphering nature's playbook of how to make these elaborate mineral structures in the laboratory."

The researchers discovered that organic molecules affect mineral formation as a continuum of energetic interactions governed by acidic and neutral chemical domains, the researchers said.

"Each type of polysaccharide is slightly different and provides a substrate that can tune the energy barrier for the calcium and carbonate ions to nucleate and begin building a bone or a shell," Giuffre said. "The same process is important in the life cycles of many different freshwater and marine organisms, including the microscopic plankton that support the food chain. Also, today's ocean has the correct recipe for the formation of biominerals, but we know the ocean's chemistry is changing. By learning the mechanisms of biomineralization, we can predict how organisms will respond to these changes."

The work, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, is a great example of the value of pursuing fundamental science research, Dove said. If researchers tie patterns of skeletal formation to specific types of molecules, it may also be possible to understand if and why organisms have changed in the fossil record.

In the meantime, the study reveals intricacies of a mineral-making process that is uniquely complex, but achievable by the simplest of organisms.

"People have always wondered, 'How does a biomineral start, and where does a biomineral actually form?'" said Clara Chan, an assistant professor of geological sciences at the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, who was not involved in the study. "Microorganisms need to collect the building blocks, then, they need a place to build the biomineral. This research says the biomineral is likely to form on a near neutral polysaccharide, which is like a gel. It makes sense that this would happen where the energy of the mineral, polysaccharide, and water is minimized this is a sophisticated system that goes far beyond gathering raw material and dumping it into a mineral. It is mind-boggling what these single-celled, basic microorganisms can do."


'/>"/>
Contact: John Pastor
jdpastor@vt.edu
540-231-5646
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Chapman University unearths data in animal habitat selection that counters current convention
2. Researchers unearth bioenergy potential in leaf-cutter ant communities
3. Research unearths new dinosaur species
4. Antibiotic-eating bug unearthed in soil
5. Scientists use worms to unearth cancer drug targets
6. Getting to the root -- unearthing the plant-microbe quid pro quo
7. Genetic secrets of the worlds toughest little bird
8. Biomedical research revealing secrets of cell behavior
9. Virtual skin model reveals secrets of skin aging
10. DNA sequencing uncovers secrets of white cliffs of Dover
11. Secrets of the cicadas sound
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/20/2016)... May 20, 2016  VoiceIt is excited to ... VoicePass. By working together, VoiceIt and ... VoiceIt and VoicePass take slightly different approaches to ... both security and usability. ... this new partnership. "This marketing and ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... 3, 2016  Neurotechnology, a provider of high-precision ... Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) , a complete ... MegaMatcher ABIS can process multiple complex biometric transactions ... of fingerprint, face or iris biometrics. It leverages ... and MegaMatcher Accelerator , which have been ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... -- Research and Markets has announced the ...  report to their offering.  , ,     (Logo: ... forecast the global multimodal biometrics market to grow ... 2016-2020.  Multimodal biometrics is being implemented ... healthcare, BFSI, transportation, automotive, and government for controlling ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... 2016  Liquid Biotech USA ... a Sponsored Research Agreement with The University of ... from cancer patients.  The funding will be used ... with clinical outcomes in cancer patients undergoing a ... be employed to support the design of a ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... , ... Researchers at the Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona combed medical ... mesothelioma. Their findings are the subject of a new article on the Surviving Mesothelioma ... in the blood, lung fluid or tissue of mesothelioma patients that can help point ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... A person commits a crime, and the detective ... the criminal down. An outbreak of foodborne illness ... (FDA) uses DNA evidence to track down the bacteria that ... It,s not. The FDA has increasingly used a complex, cutting-edge ... illnesses. Put as simply as possible, whole genome sequencing is ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016   EpiBiome , a precision ... million in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). ... and to advance its drug development efforts, as well ... "SVB has been an incredible strategic partner ... a traditional bank would provide," said Dr. Aeron ...
Breaking Biology Technology: