From Biosilica of Sponges (Demospongiae and Hexactinellida) to Fabricated Biomedical Materials

  • Xiaohong Wang
  • Heinz C. Schröder
  • Matthias Wiens
  • Lu Gan
  • Wolfgang Tremel
  • Werner E. G. Müller
Reference work entry


Only 13 years after realizing, during a repair of a telegraph cable pulled out from the deep sea, that the bottom of the ocean is plentifully populated with a highly diverse fauna and flora, the Challenger expedition (1873–1876) treasured up a rich collection of vitreous sponges (Hexactinellida). They have been described by Schulze and represent the phylogenetically oldest class of siliceous sponges (phylum Porifera); they are eye-catching because of their distinct body plan, which relies on a filigree skeleton. It is constructed by an array of morphologically determined elements, the spicules. During the German Deep Sea Expedition “Valdivia” (1898–1899), Schulze could describe the largest siliceous hexactinellid sponge on Earth, the up to 3 m high Monorhaphis chuni, which likewise forms the largest biosilica structure, the giant basal spicule. Using such spicules as a model, basic knowledge on the morphology, formation, and development of the skeletal elements could be acquired. They are formed by a proteinaceous scaffold (composed of a 27-kDa protein), which mediates the formation of siliceous lamellae that encase the protein. The 27-kDa protein represents an enzyme that forms polysilicate from silicic acid monomers. The silica matrix is composed of almost pure silicon and oxygen, providing it with unusual optophysical properties that are superior to those of man-made waveguides. Experiments suggest that the spicules function in vivo as a nonocular photoreception system. In addition, the spicules are provided with exceptional mechanical properties, combining mechanical stability with strength and stiffness. These basic insights, obtained from the spicule formation in sponges, will surely contribute to a further applied utilization and exploration of silica in biomaterial/biomedical science.


Axial Cylinder Siliceous Sponge Axial Filament Axial Canal Spicule Formation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



W.E.G.M. is holder of an ERC Advanced Investigator Grant (No. 268476 – BIOSILICA). This work was supported by grants from the German Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Project “Center of Excellence BIOTECmarin”), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Schr 277/10-1), the International Human Frontier Science Program, the European Commission (Grant No. 031541-BIO-LITHO [biomineralization for lithography and microelectronics]), the consortium BiomaTiCS at the Universitätsmedizin of the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, and the Public Welfare Project of Ministry of Land and Resources of the People’s Republic of China (Grant No. 201011005–06).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaohong Wang
    • 2
    • 1
  • Heinz C. Schröder
    • 1
  • Matthias Wiens
    • 1
  • Lu Gan
    • 2
  • Wolfgang Tremel
    • 3
  • Werner E. G. Müller
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Physiological ChemistryMedical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg UniversityMainzGermany
  2. 2.National Research Center for GeoanalysisBeijingChina
  3. 3.Institute for ChemistryJohannes Gutenberg University MainzMainzGermany

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