Body-fluid-exposed bioactive glasses (BGs) integrate with living tissues due to the formation of a biomimetic surface layer of calcium hydroxy-carbonate apatite (HCA) with a close composition to bone mineral. Vast efforts have been spent to understand the mechanisms underlying in vitro apatite mineralization, as either formed by direct precipitation from supersaturated solutions, or from BG substrates in a simulated body fluid (SBF). Formally, these two scenarios are distinct and have hitherto been discussed as such. Herein, we contrast them and identify several shared features. We monitored the formation of amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP) and its crystallization into HCA from a Na
glass exposed to SBF for variable periods out to 28 days. The HCA growth was assessed semi-quantitatively by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and powder X-ray diffraction, with the evolution of the relative apatite content for increasing SBF-exposure periods evaluated against trends in Ca and P concentrations in the accompanying solutions. This revealed a sigmoidal apatite growth behavior, well-known to apply to spontaneously precipitated apatite. The results are discussed in relation to the prevailing mechanism proposed for in vitro HCA formation from silicate-based BGs, where we highlight largely simultaneous growth processes of ACP and HCA.
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