Jul 24, 2012    #090
Contact: John Austin

School of Dentistry researcher develops new process for imaging bone mineral

Working with colleagues in Switzerland, University of Missouri-Kansas City Professor Jeffrey Gorski, PhD., has developed a "high-pressure freezing" method for preserving calcium and phosphorus in biological specimens. As a result, researchers will get a clearer picture of how bone tissue processes these vital elements and incorporates them into bone structure.

Traditional methods for preparing bone tissue samples for electron microscopy and electron spectroscopic imaging use water, which results in the loss of much of these minerals in the samples. The new method will enhance investigators' ability to visualize the elements using non-aqueous (without water) electron microscopy and electron spectroscopic imaging methods. The results of the research were recently published in the Leica research magazine reSolution, as well as the research journal Cells Tissues Organs.

"Since both calcium and phosphorus -- usually present as phosphate -- are charged and small in size, they are easily lost in biological specimens that are conventionally processed using water," said Dr. Gorski, who is a member of the Bone Biology Research program at the School of Dentistry.

The non-aqueous, high-pressure freezing method developed by Dr. Gorski and his colleagues is instantaneous and avoids the formation of ice crystals within the specimens, which can disrupt much of the fine cellular and extracellular morphological details. Using this method, the researchers are able to section the specimens without the losses that can result from exposure to water.

"All together, this new combined approach allows us to preserve a large part of the calcium and phosphorus so we can follow the process of how bone cells produce and crystallize these elements into hydroxyapatite (bone mineral)," he said. "In particular, we are focusing on the time immediately prior to the nucleation of these crystals where the calcium and phosphorus atoms are more mobile and not locked into crystalline complexes yet. How this happens is still in dispute and we hope our method will allow us to follow this process in a way not possible up to now."

About the UMKC School of Dentistry

The UMKC School of Dentistry originated in 1881 as the Kansas City Dental College. The name has changed and the school has grown and evolved into a multi-faceted institution, but it has maintained a tradition of excellence in education for over a century. The School offers a varied and complete range of educational experiences for students of dentistry and dental hygiene and for graduate and continuing education students. For more information about the UMKC School of Dentistry, visit You can also find the School of Dentistry on Facebook.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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