Visualizing biointerfaces in three dimensions: electron tomography of the bone–hydroxyapatite interface
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A positive interaction between human bone tissue and synthetics is crucial for the success of bone-regenerative materials. A greater understanding of the mechanisms governing bone-bonding is often gained via visualization of the bone-implant interface. Interfaces to bone have long been imaged with light, X-rays and electrons. Most of these techniques, however, only provide low-resolution or two-dimensional information. With the advances in modern day transmission electron microscopy, including new hardware and increased software computational speeds, the high-resolution visualization and analysis of three-dimensional structures is possible via electron tomography. We report, for the first time, a three-dimensional reconstruction of the interface between human bone and a hydroxyapatite implant using Z-contrast electron tomography. Viewing this structure in three dimensions enabled us to observe the nanometre differences in the orientation of hydroxyapatite crystals precipitated on the implant surface in vivo versus those in the collagen matrix of bone. Insight into the morphology of biointerfaces is considerably enhanced with three-dimensional techniques. In this regard, electron tomography may revolutionize the approach to high-resolution biointerface characterization.
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