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Journal of Nanomaterials
Volume 2008, Article ID 623838, 8 pages
Research Article

Nanostructural Organization of Naturally Occurring Composites—Part I: Silica-Collagen-Based Biocomposites

1Max Bergmann Center of Biomaterials and Institute of Materials Science, Dresden University of Technology, 01069 Dresden, Germany
2Max Planck Institute of Chemical Physics of Solids, 01187 Dresden, Germany
3Institute of Chemistry and Applied Ecology, Far Eastern National University, 690650 Vladivostok, Russia
4P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Nahimovsky pr. 36, 117997 Moscow, Russia

Received 2 November 2007; Accepted 31 December 2007

Academic Editor: Donglu Shi

Copyright © 2008 Hermann Ehrlich et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Glass sponges, as examples of natural biocomposites, inspire investigations aiming at both a better understanding of biomineralization mechanisms and novel developments in the synthesis of nanostructured biomimetic materials. Different representatives of marine glass sponges of the class Hexactinellida (Porifera) are remarkable because of their highly flexible basal anchoring spicules. Therefore, investigations of the biochemical compositions and the micro- and nanostructure of the spicules as examples of naturally structured biomaterials are of fundamental scientific relevance. Here we present a detailed study of the structural and biochemical properties of the basal spicules of the marine glass sponge Monorhaphis chuni. The results show unambiguously that in this glass sponge a fibrillar protein of collagenous nature is the template for the silica mineralization in all silica-containing structural layers of the spicule. The structural similarity and homology of collagens derived from M. chuni spicules to other sponge and vertebrate collagens have been confirmed by us using FTIR, amino acid analysis and mass spectrometric sequencing techniques. We suggest that nanomorphology of silica formed on proteinous structures could be determined as an example of biodirected epitaxial nanodistribution of amorphous silica phase on oriented fibrillar collagen templates. Finally, the present work includes a discussion relating to silica-collagen-based hybrid materials for practical applications as biomaterials.