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Journal Article

Otoconia: Mimicking a calcite-based functional material of the human body. From basic research to medical aspects


Kniep,  Rüdiger
Rüdiger Kniep, Inorganic Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids, Max Planck Society;

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Kniep, R. (2015). Otoconia: Mimicking a calcite-based functional material of the human body. From basic research to medical aspects. Pure and Applied Chemistry, 87(8), 719-736. doi:10.1515/pac-2015-0201.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-5264-2
Otoconia (calcite-based biominerals) are part of the sensory system in the inner ear of vertebrates, acting as gravity receptors responding to linear accelerations. Biomimetic otoconia are grown by double-diffusion into gelatine-gel matrices, and represent the first example of successful imitation of a biomineral, not only in outer shape but also in composite structure and hierarchical inner architecture. Biomimetic and biogenic (human) otoconia are investigated by X-ray methods, chemical analytics, ESEM, and TEM. Shape development (morphogenesis) as well as (partial) dissolution of the calcite component of the composite underline the hierarchical inner architecture built of more dense rhombohedral branches (with plane end-faces) and a rounded, more porous belly area. Atomistic simulations are performed in order to get insight into very first nucleation steps. Based on the detailed observations made up to now, first assumptions for the function of otoconia are developed, including the questions of density distribution within the volume of the specimen, the surrounding endolymph, as well as anchoring and interconnections of otoconia. A final point concerns the degeneration of otoconia which is caused by complexing agents and/or changes in ion concentrations (and pH) of the endolymph.