Embedding cells within nanoscale, rapidly mineralizing hydrogels: A new paradigm to engineer cell-laden bone-like tissue

Amin Mansoorifar, Ramesh Subbiah, Gabriela de Souza Balbinot, Selvakumar Prakash Parthiban, Luiz E. Bertassoni

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Bone mineralization is a highly specific and dynamic nanoscale process that has been studied extensively from a structural, chemical, and biological standpoint. Bone tissue, therefore, may be defined by the interplay of its intricately mineralized matrix and the cells that regulate its biological function. However, the far majority of engineered bone model systems and bone replacement materials have been unable to replicate this key characteristic of bone tissue; that is, the ability of cells to be gradually and rapidly embedded in a three-dimensional (3D) heavily calcified matrix material. Here we review the characteristics that define the bone matrix from a nanostructural perspective. We then revisit the benefits and challenges of existing model systems and engineered bone replacement materials, and discuss recent efforts to replicate the biological, cellular, mechanical, and materials characteristics of bone tissue on the nano- to microscale. We pay particular attention to a recently proposed method developed by our group, which seeks to replicate key aspects of the entrapment of bone cells within a mineralized matrix with precisions down to the level of individual nano-crystallites, inclusive of the bone vasculature, and osteogenic differentiation process. In summary, this paper discusses existing and emerging evidence pointing towards future developments bridging the gap between the fields of biomineralization, structural biology, stem cells, and tissue engineering, which we believe will hold the key to engineer truly functional bone-like tissue in the laboratory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107636
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Biomineralization
  • Bone
  • Cell-laden hydrogel
  • PILP
  • Vascularization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology


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