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Rebecca Metzler - Formation of Biominerals
About the Research:
We are studying the formation of biominerals. Biominerals are widespread and diverse in nature with examples such as bones, shells, coccoliths, and teeth. While biomineralization is a pervasive and important phenomenon in nature, the fundamental mechanisms of biomineral formation are unknown. We believe that the key to understanding biomineral formation is in understanding the interaction between the organic and inorganic components.
We use synchrotron radiation to probe this organic-mineral interaction. X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy, which is sensitive to electronic and molecular structure, allows us to investigate the molecular-level interactions at the organic-mineral interface by probing different bonds within the biomineral system.
Along with discovering a number of spectral features that are signatures of organic-mineral interactions, we have found that specific proteins induce the formation of specific inorganic polymorphs and modify crystal morphology. These discoveries provide insight into the function of these proteins within biomineral formation.