Rights: University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved. Published 5 October 2012 Download

In this video clip, Professor Kate McGrath, Director of the MacDiarmid Institute, outlines some of the long-term benefits of biomineralisation research. Implant technologies in the human health area and new materials with unique mechanical and/or electrical properties are possible targets for future research.


So in trying to understand biomineralisation, from a science perspective, fundamentally, we just want to know how things work. That’s the basis that all scientists are trying to get to. But of course, much of science is also applicable and usable in everyday situations. The long-term goal in terms of human health is for implant technologies. 

Sometimes we can repair our hard tissue, so our bones and our teeth, and sometimes we can’t. And what we’d like to be able to do is aid reparation, and if we can’t do that, the technique that we all use is implants. We have fillings in our teeth, hip replacements, all sorts of different implants that are utilised. Now the problem with that is that they’re either metal based, so titanium, or they’re ceramic based. Both of those have issues from the human body perspective. 

So from the ideal perspective, you’d like to be able to put in an implant that is completely biocompatible with the native structure, both in terms of chemical functionality and also three-dimensional structuring.

So neither of them are good, but they have to be used because it’s essentially what we have available to us, so how can we improve that? Well, we can make synthetic biominerals. So if we can actually make in the laboratory a material that has structural and chemical and mechanical characteristics in similarity to the native system, then you have a much better implant. 

So if we can actually start to make structures similar to biominerals but use chemicals that have interesting characteristics then we might have materials that have amazing mechanical properties and also amazing chemical or electronic properties. So there are the two applications – one in the more traditional materials science sort of perspective and the other in human health perspective.

Dr Natasha Munro
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Douglas Fraser / Courtesy of Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth
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