Hydroxylapatite, also called hydroxyapatite (HA), is a naturally occurring mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

 form of calcium apatite
Apatite is a group of phosphate minerals, usually referring to hydroxylapatite, fluorapatite, chlorapatite and bromapatite, named for high concentrations of OH−, F−, Cl− or Br− ions, respectively, in the crystal...

 with the formula Ca5(PO4)3(OH), but is usually written Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2 to denote that the crystal unit cell comprises two entities. Hydroxylapatite is the hydroxyl
A hydroxyl is a chemical group containing an oxygen atom covalently bonded with a hydrogen atom. In inorganic chemistry, the hydroxyl group is known as the hydroxide ion, and scientists and reference works generally use these different terms though they refer to the same chemical structure in...

Endmember (mineralogy)
An endmember in mineralogy is a mineral that is at the extreme end of a mineral series in terms of purity. Minerals often can be described as solid solutions with varying compositions of some chemical elements, rather than as substances with an exact chemical formula...

 of the complex apatite group. The OH- ion
An ion is an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving it a net positive or negative electrical charge. The name was given by physicist Michael Faraday for the substances that allow a current to pass between electrodes in a...

 can be replaced by fluoride
Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. It is the lightest element of the halogen column of the periodic table and has a single stable isotope, fluorine-19. At standard pressure and temperature, fluorine is a pale yellow gas composed of diatomic...

, chloride
Chlorine is the chemical element with atomic number 17 and symbol Cl. It is the second lightest halogen, found in the periodic table in group 17. The element forms diatomic molecules under standard conditions, called dichlorine...

 or carbonate
In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt of carbonic acid, characterized by the presence of the carbonate ion, . The name may also mean an ester of carbonic acid, an organic compound containing the carbonate group C2....

, producing fluorapatite
Fluorapatite, often with the alternate spelling of fluoroapatite, is a mineral with the formula Ca53F . Fluorapatite is a hard crystalline solid. Although samples can have various color , the pure mineral is colorless as expected for a material lacking transition metals...

 or chlorapatite. It crystallizes in the hexagonal crystal system
Crystal system
In crystallography, the terms crystal system, crystal family, and lattice system each refer to one of several classes of space groups, lattices, point groups, or crystals...

. Pure hydroxylapatite powder is white. Naturally occurring apatites can, however, also have brown, yellow, or green colorations, comparable to the discolorations of dental fluorosis
Dental fluorosis
Dental fluorosis is a developmental disturbance of dental enamel caused by excessive exposure to high concentrations of fluoride during tooth development. The risk of fluoride overexposure occurs between the ages of 3 months and 8 years. In its mild forms , fluorosis often appears as unnoticeable,...


Up to 50% of bone
Osseous tissue
Osseous tissue, or bone tissue, is the major structural and supportive connective tissue of the body. Osseous tissue forms the rigid part of the bone organs that make up the skeletal system.-Formation:Bone tissue is a mineralized connective tissue...

 is made up of a modified form of the inorganic mineral hydroxylapatite (known as bone mineral
Bone mineral
Bone mineral is the inorganic component of bone. Bone mineral is formed from carbonated hydroxyapatite with lower crystallinity....

). Carbonated calcium-deficient hydroxylapatite is the main mineral of which dental enamel and dentin
Dentine is a calcified tissue of the body, and along with enamel, cementum, and pulp is one of the four major components of teeth. Usually, it is covered by enamel on the crown and cementum on the root and surrounds the entire pulp...

 are comprised. Hydroxylapatite crystals are also found in the small calcifications (within the pineal gland
Pineal gland
The pineal gland is a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain. It produces the serotonin derivative melatonin, a hormone that affects the modulation of wake/sleep patterns and seasonal functions...

 and other structures) known as corpora arenacea
Corpora arenacea
Corpora arenacea are calcified structures in the pineal gland and other areas of the brain such as the choroid plexus. Older organisms have numerous corpora arenacea, whose function, if any, is unknown. Concentrations of "brain sand" increase with age, so the pineal gland becomes increasingly...

 or 'brain sand'.

Medical uses

Hydroxylapatite can be found in teeth and bones within the human body. Thus, it is commonly used as a filler to replace amputated bone or as a coating to promote bone ingrowth into prosthetic
In medicine, a prosthesis, prosthetic, or prosthetic limb is an artificial device extension that replaces a missing body part. It is part of the field of biomechatronics, the science of using mechanical devices with human muscle, skeleton, and nervous systems to assist or enhance motor control...

 implants. Although many other phase
Phase (matter)
In the physical sciences, a phase is a region of space , throughout which all physical properties of a material are essentially uniform. Examples of physical properties include density, index of refraction, and chemical composition...

s exist with similar or even identical chemical makeup, the body responds much differently to them. Coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

 skeletons can be transformed into hydroxylapatite by high temperatures; their porous structure allows relatively rapid ingrowth at the expense of initial mechanical strength. The high temperature also burns away any organic molecules such as protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

s, preventing an immune response and rejection.

Many modern implants, e.g. hip replacement
Hip replacement
Hip replacement is a surgical procedure in which the hip joint is replaced by a prosthetic implant. Hip replacement surgery can be performed as a total replacement or a hemi replacement. Such joint replacement orthopaedic surgery generally is conducted to relieve arthritis pain or fix severe...

s and dental implants, are coated with hydroxylapatite. It has been suggested that this may promote osseointegration
Osseointegration derives from the Greek osteon, bone, and the Latin integrare, to make whole. The term refers to the direct structural and functional connection between living bone and the surface of a load-bearing artificial implant...


Porous Hydroxlyapatite implants are used for local drug delivery in bone.


Microcrystalline hydroxylapatite (MH) is marketed as a "bone-building" supplement with superior absorption in comparison to calcium. It is a second-generation calcium supplement derived from bovine bone. In the 1980s, bone meal calcium supplements were found to be contaminated with heavy metals, and although the manufacturers' claim their MH is free from contaminants, people are advised to avoid it because it has not been well-tested. However, the limited tests seem to show positive results. A 1995 randomized placebo-controlled study of 40 people in Europe found that it was more effective than calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks in all parts of the world, and is the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells. Calcium carbonate is the active ingredient in agricultural lime,...

 in slowing bone loss. A 2007 randomized double-blind controlled study of an MH supplement called the Bone Builder found significant positive effects in bone mineral density (BMD) compared to placebo. Hydroxylapatite has been used by Noel Fitzpatrick
Noel Fitzpatrick
Noel Fitzpatick is an Irish neuro-orthopaedic veterinary surgeon and a pioneer of bionic development in animals. He currently operates a multi-million pound practice of some 65 employees, named Fitzpatrick Referrals, in Eashing, Surrey, England...

 to facilitate bionic development in animals, by coating steel rods in hydroxylapatite to encourage natural growth of skin around it.
As a component of nanocomposites, hydroxylapatite is finding uses as a potential new bone replacement materials.


The mechanism of hydroxylapatite (HA) chromatography
Chromatography is the collective term for a set of laboratory techniques for the separation of mixtures....

 is complicated and has been described as "mixed-mode" ion exchange. It involves nonspecific interactions between positively charged calcium ions and negatively charged phosphate ions on the stationary phase HA resin with protein negatively charged carboxyl groups and positively charged amino groups. It may be difficult to predict the effectiveness of HA chromatography based on physical and chemical properties of the desired protein to be purified. For elution, a buffer with increasing phosphate concentration is typically used.

Use in archaeology

In archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, hydroxylapatite from human and animal remains
Faunal assemblage
Faunal Assemblage is the archaeological or paleontological term for a group of associated animal fossils found together in a given stratum.The principle of faunal succession is used in biostratigraphy to determine each biostratigraphic unit, or biozone...

 is analysed in order to reconstruct ancient diets
Diet (nutrition)
In nutrition, diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism. Dietary habits are the habitual decisions an individual or culture makes when choosing what foods to eat. With the word diet, it is often implied the use of specific intake of nutrition for health or weight-management...

. The mineral fractions of bone and teeth act as a reservoir of trace elements, including strontium
Strontium is a chemical element with the symbol Sr and the atomic number 38. An alkaline earth metal, strontium is a soft silver-white or yellowish metallic element that is highly reactive chemically. The metal turns yellow when exposed to air. It occurs naturally in the minerals celestine and...

. It has been established that the ratio of strontium to calcium in bone hydroxylapatite broadly reflects an animal's diet during the period before its death when the bone was being formed (5–10 years in the case of human remains), or in the case of dental mineral in childhood. In either case analysis of Sr/Ca ratios allows an individual's diet to be classified as carnivorous
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging...

, herbivorous
Herbivores are organisms that are anatomically and physiologically adapted to eat plant-based foods. Herbivory is a form of consumption in which an organism principally eats autotrophs such as plants, algae and photosynthesizing bacteria. More generally, organisms that feed on autotrophs in...

 or omnivorous
Omnivores are species that eat both plants and animals as their primary food source...

 and either predominantly marine or terrestrially based. However the difficulty of compensating for post-mortem contamination of archaeological samples through interaction with groundwater
Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. A unit of rock or an unconsolidated deposit is called an aquifer when it can yield a usable quantity of water. The depth at which soil pore spaces or fractures and voids in rock...

 continues to cast doubt on the reliability of the method. Stable isotope analysis is considered a more viable alternative, although strontium and other trace mineral analyses of dental samples are commonly used in situations where this is impossible because the collagen
Collagen is a group of naturally occurring proteins found in animals, especially in the flesh and connective tissues of mammals. It is the main component of connective tissue, and is the most abundant protein in mammals, making up about 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content...

 content of the bone has completely decayed (i.e. for palaeolithic samples).
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