Silicon: The evolution of its use in biomaterials

J. R. Henstock*, L. T. Canham, S. I. Anderson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

162 Citations (Scopus)


In the 1970s, several studies revealed the requirement for silicon in bone development, while bioactive silicate glasses simultaneously pioneered the current era of bioactive materials. Considerable research has subsequently focused on the chemistry and biological function of silicon in bone, demonstrating that the element has at least two separate effects in the extracellular matrix: (i) interacting with glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans during their synthesis, and (ii) forming ionic substitutions in the crystal lattice structure of hydroxyapatite. In addition, the dissolution products of bioactive glass (predominantly silicic acids) have significant effects on the molecular biology of osteoblasts in vitro, regulating the expression of several genes including key osteoblastic markers, cell cycle regulators and extracellular matrix proteins. Researchers have sought to capitalize on these effects and have generated a diverse array of biomaterials, which include bioactive glasses, silicon-substituted hydroxyapatites and pure, porosified silicon, but all these materials share similarities in the mechanisms that result in their bioactivity. This review discusses the current data obtained from original research in biochemistry and biomaterials science supporting the role of silicon in bone, comparing both the biological function of the element and analysing the evolution of silicon-containing biomaterials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-26
Number of pages10
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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