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Biomineralisation - Calcite-Gelatine/Agar-Nanocomposites

The inner ear of reptiles, birds and mammals contains a complex arrangement of enclosed sacs and channels where the senses for balance and hearing are located. Parts of these sensory systems are called maculae acting as gravity receptors by responding to linear accelerations. The sensory transduction depends on the inertial mass of calcite particles (so-called otoconia) each one showing a barrel-shaped habit with triplanar faceted ends. The peculiar shape of the otoconia as well as their inner structure and the resulting bio-functionality are far from being fully understood up to now. The same is true for the shape development (morphogenesis). Therefore, we address to these essential questions by a close biomimetic approach investigating the development of the complex composite architecture resembling all the structural details which are known from natural otoconia so far. The revealed inner structure gives rise to a first interpretation of their functionality, i.e., their response to linear accelerations. Intense future research on biomimetic as well as biogenic otoconia is needed to fully clarify the complex composite structure, their morphogenesis and their functionality [1,2].

Figure 1. (Left) Human otoconia (inset top right) and a biomimetic specimen. The biomimetic specimen was synthesized by using a mixture of agar and gelatine as the diffusion-matrix. (Right) Sketch of the gravity receptor organ (macula). The otoconial mass (green) is in contact with endolymph and interconnected to a gelatineous matrix by surface adhesion and by confinement within a loose interotoconial filament matrix.


[1] “Shape Development and Structure of a Complex (Otoconia-Like?) Calcite-Gelatine Composite”
Y.-X. Huang, J. Buder, R. Cardoso-Gil, Y. Prots, W. Carrillo-Cabrera, P. Simon, R. Kniep, Angew. Chem. 120 (2008) 8404-8408; Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 47 (2008) 8280-8284.

[2] “Biomimetische Morphogenese und Struktur von Calcit-Statolithen (Otoconia)“
R. Kniep, BIOSpektrum, in press.

Last modified on January 29, 2010 Print version         Top
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