Event Name

Biomineralization: Where Geology Meets Biology: The Inorganic-Organic Interface

Start Date 17th Aug 2014
End Date 23rd Aug 2014

Gordon Research Conference

Biominerals are everywhere in our world, including in our own bones, teeth and inner ear otoconia. Well over 60 biominerals have been identified in Nature, where they cut across most phyla. Biologically regulated mineralization (biomineralization) began more than 500 million years ago in the pre-Cambrian period, and indeed is in large measure partly responsible for the evolutionary success of the Cambrian explosion. Well prior to that, mineralogy on Earth has been affected by biological processes such that mineral "evolution" has likewise been described.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly to some), the chemical composition and atomic structure of macroscopic and microscopic hard rocks found in the crust of the earth and in the geologic displays of museums and collectors is essentially the same used for organismal hardening strategies. The difference, of course, lies in the fact that biology has spatially diminished this rock-forming process in many cases down to the nanoscale, to form 'nanorocks' of sorts. The incredible downsizing precision of this nanoscaling process allows for tremendous organic-inorganic composite diversity across the structures and tissues of various organisms. Where biomineralization occurs within extracellular matrices - as in vertebrate bone, cartilage, dentin, cementum and enamel - the end result is billions, if not trillions or more, of nanocrystallites embedded within an organic scaffolding that together affords a degree of flexibility and toughness not present in the Earth's brittle gems. Gene mutations that ultimately affect mineral-regulating proteins typically lead to defective mineralization – and consequently decreased function – in the structures/tissues in which they reside.

Reconciliation of the evolving interplay between organic moieties and minerals lies at the heart of modern biomineralization inquiry, with studies typically requiring an integration of multi-pronged biophysical, biological and geological/mineralogical investigative approaches. Accordingly, this Gordon Research Conference on Biomineralization will explore the basic principles by which organisms synthesize, control and make use of minerals, as well as the potential applications of these, particularly related to the creation of novel, biologically regulated mineralized materials. Spectacular advances have been made in the last years and are impacting various scientific communities, from biology to geology, from life sciences to materials science, and from evolutionary sciences to engineering.

The central goal of this biomineralization GRC is to create a stimulating environment for scientists from all these disciplines to discuss the latest ideas and recent advances on how minerals interact with biomolecules, and what are the consequences of this interfacial interaction. The conference topics will cover all kinds of biominerals, including amongst others carbonates, phosphates, silica and iron oxides, whether they occur in vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and bacteria. It will also address human health issues related to abnormal mineralization or diseases connected to mineral growth and homeostasis in the skeleton and in teeth.

The great success of this GRC (its 50th anniversary) – and its first GRS (in 2012) – is largely attributable to its lively afternoon poster sessions, which complement exciting invited lectures usually followed by animated, provocative scientific exchange. The informal nature of the conference, along with abundant discussion time, breaks down barriers between students and junior and senior investigators, leading to an ongoing free and exciting exchange of scientific ideas. All are encouraged to present posters containing in part at least some new unpublished work, from which some will be selected for short oral presentations. Topics to be covered as part of the invited oral program include but are not limited to: Biomineral nucleation and growth, Intracellular biomineralization, Regulation of biomineralization in marine invertebrates, Protein/peptide structural biology regulating biomineralization processes, Computational simulations of biomineralization, Transgenic mouse models for understanding normal and pathologic biomineralization, Mineralized material properties and bioinspired materials, and Co-evolution of the geo- and biospheres.

  • Chair: Marc D. McKee 
  • Vice Chair: Nico A.J.M. Sommerdijk
Location New London, NH
United States
URL http://www.grc.org/programs.aspx?year=2014&program=biomin

Category Conferences
Topics Biological macromolecules | Mineralogy