The project looks to use eggshells for the production of amorphous calcium phosphates (ACP), a mineral form that is considered quite unstable but may have potential in forming a porous, natural bone-like ceramic substrate.
ACP already available as a commercial preparation intended to be applied directly on teeth. However, its clinical usefulness has not been extensively studied.
“It is the calcium in the eggshells that is of particular interest to us,” explains Dr Håvard Jostein Haugen, Professor at the University of Oslo.
“Synthesised properly in the lab, the calcium from the eggshell can be transformed into ACP, a component that can replace the inorganic part of the bone.”
Together with scientists from Riga Technical University (RTU), University of Oslo, Reykjavik University and Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), the team will work on a different aspect of the projects,
RTU scientists will synthesise amorphous calcium phosphates while researchers from TalTech will form macroporous ACP ceramic substrates.
Bone-like ceramic scaffolds
“Eggshells will be used as a raw material – source of calcium – for the synthesis of ACP,” explains the Head of RTU Rudolfs Cimdins Riga Biomaterials Innovation and Development Centre and project leader Dagnija Loča.
“Amorphous calcium phosphates synthesised in a laboratory may replace the inorganic part of the bone, which means that they can be used to treat bone fractures and various other diseases related to the loss of bone mass.
“In addition, to fully process chicken eggshells into high value-added products, proteins with high bioactive content and antibacterial properties will be extracted from eggshell membranes. As a result, it will be possible to make porous, natural bone-like ceramic scaffolds with improved properties.”
Meanwhile, scientists in Oslo and Reykjavik will characterise and assess biocompatibility so obtained constructs can be used in the production of implantable materials.
ACP’s main use has been in dentistry, where in combination with casein phosphopeptide, is used as a treatment to treat dental decay. ACP can also be used an occluding agent to aid in reducing sensitivity.
The hope now with the project, entitled ‘Waste-to-resource: eggshells as a source for next generation biomaterials for bone regeneration,’ is to investigate its potential as a coat for porous ACP ceramic substrates, thus giving the material new and unique properties.
The circular economy
“With an increasing focus on sustainable activity and the implementation of the principles of circular economy at our plant, we are thinking about every detail where and how to use everything that comes from the production process more effectively,” adds Toms Auškāps, Director of Communication and Development at Balticovo, a Latvian supplier of the eggs used in the project.
“The recycling of eggshells is complicated and often expensive, so we are highly interested in looking for the best ways to use them.
“We are particularly pleased that we can help to develop science and help to create innovative and high value-added products from eggshells, thus it is genuinely rewarding to cooperate with RTU scientists in providing them with shells of different eggs for research purposes.”
The three-year project is one of the initiatives spearheaded by the Baltic Research programme and is funded by the European Economic Area and Norway grants. To date the project has received just under €800,000 in finance.