• Open Access

Soluble, insoluble and geometric signals sculpt the architecture of mineralized tissues


*Correspondence to: Professor Ugo RIPAMONTI Bone Research Unit, MRC/University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 7 York Road, 2193 Parktown, South Africa. Tel./Fax: + 12 11 717 2300 E-mail: ripamontiu@bru.wits.ac.za


Bone morphogenetic and osteogenic proteins (BMPs/OPs), members of the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) superfamily, are soluble mediators of tissue morphogenesis and induce de novo endochondral bone formation in heterotopic extraskeletal sites as a recapitulation of embryonic development. In the primate Papio ursinus, the induction of bone formation has been extended to the TGF-β isoforms per se. In the primate and in the primate only, the TGF-β isoforms are initiators of endochondral bone formation by induction and act in a species-, site- and tissue-specific mode with robust endochondral bone induction in heterotopic sites but with limited new bone formation in orthotopic bone defects. The limited inductive capacity orthotopically of TGF-β isoforms is associated with expression of the inhibitory Smads, Smad6 and Smad7. In primates, bone formation can also be induced using biomimetic crystalline hydroxyapatite matrices with a specific surface geometry and without the exogenous application of osteogenic proteins of the TGF-β superfamily, even when the biomimetic matrices are implanted heterotopically in the rectus abdominis muscle. The sequence of events that directs new bone formation upon the implantation of highly crystalline biomimetic matrices initiates with vascular invasion, mesenchymal cell migration, attachment and differentiation of osteoblast-like cells attached to the substratum, expression and synthesis of osteogenic proteins of the TGF-β superfamily resulting in the induction of bone as a secondary response. The above findings in the primate indicate enormous potential for the bioengineering industry. Of particular interest is that biomimetic matrices with intrinsic osteoinductivity would be an affordable option in the local context.