Application of cuttlefish bone in biomedicine

mollusk Sepia apama

About the author

Alisa is a researcher of chemical and life sciences: Doctor of Chemical Sciences and Master of Pharmacy. Before starting her doctoral studies, Alisa worked for ten years in various industrial and public pharmacies. During her doctoral studies, she taught modules of drug formulation technology, pharmacology, and homeopathy.

Alisa’s research areas: use of marine polymers in biomedicine and pharmacy, plastic pollution issues, drug compatibility, modern homeopathy, chemistry in painting and art, alternatives to animal testing. Alisa is the founder of the internationally acclaimed website E-Magazine for Curiuos Mind, an eco-activist volunteer and proponent of processed sugar-free food, the author of three books on healthy food and ecology.

More info: ABOUT AUTHOR page, OUR BOOKS page, FB / Instagram / WordPress: @palatronis


Prologue

Alisa began her doctoral studies with the aim of basing her science on what she had known from an early age – the healing properties of sepia bone, promoting wound healing (in other words, empirical experience). As a child, her father, a sailor, carried elongated white “bones” from the travels. It was the internal bone structure of cephalopod cuttlefish (Latin: Sepia officinalis), like a skeleton that ensures a floating water in a live mollusk and protects the internal organs from damage at high water pressure (immersion deep). After scraping a small amount of cuttlebone powder with a knife, it was sprinkled on the skin wounds or to stop the bleeding – the skin lesions healed extremely quickly and effectively.


In her dissertation “Characterization and Application of Cuttlebone for the Development of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Compositions,” arranged during 2013 – 2018, Alisa examined the elemental analysis of cuttlefish bone by collecting samples from various coasts of Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Sultanate of Oman.

Image 1: Giant cephalopod cuttlefish (Sepia apama) in the ocean (image by Macho Gray photo, 2015, source: https://micruzbiological.blogspot.lt/2015_02_01_archive.html?view=classic)

Sepia bone is found to be naturally enriched with the polymer chitin and a range of biologically significant elements such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, strontium, chlorine, potassium, sulphur, iron and zinc. When it comes to regeneration medicine, the latter are undoubtedly beneficial for bone and skin tissue regeneration.

Despite global marine pollution due to anthropological factors (man-created pollution), sepia bone does not accumulate biomedically unfavorable organic pollutants (chemical name: polychlorinated biphenyls) and elements that do not have a known vital or biologically beneficial effect on organisms (aluminum, mercury, cadmium, lead). This is because organic and inorganic contaminants can accumulate in the digestive gland and mantle of mollusk cuttlefish, and the cuttlefish bone, the internal structure, remains unaffected.

Image 2: Drawing of cephalopod cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis)

Studies with keratinocytes (skin cells), hepatocytes (liver cells) and muscle cells were performed in collaboration with colleagues from Czech Republic and Ukraine. Non-toxicity of cuttlebone biomedical compositions were demonstrated.

Subsequently, biocomposites with pure cuttlebone material, with hydroxyapatite synthesized from cuttlebone in the laboratory, and biocomposites after immersion in simulated body fluid were studied. In collaboration with colleagues from Turkey, the osteoconductivity of these biocomposites has been demonstrated, i.e., the ability of the material to promote the growth of new bone tissue and its adhesion to the implant. Chemical composition of carbonated calcium hydroxyapatite, which was obtained from sepia bone during hydrothermal synthesis, is close to the chemical composition of human bone (because it retains its natural bioelements such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, strontium, etc.). For this reason, hydroxyapatite derived from cuttlefish bone is superior to synthetic hydroxyapatite.

Innovative experimental trials have also been undertaken to remove the allergy inducing protein –tropomyosin.

Image 3: Calcium ion-mediated movements of proteins troponin and tropomyosin during muscle contraction (reference 1)

Calcium alginate capsules with mineral fillers from cuttlebone microparticles or hydroxyapatite, synthesized from cuttlebone microparticles, were also developed. The size of the resulting capsules is similar to the size of the periodontal pockets, so the capsules are theoretically suitable for filling small bone defects in the oral cavity.

Image 4: Alginate capsule with hydroxyapatite, synthesized from sepia bone minerals (scanning electron microscope image by Dr. Alisa Palatronis)

Not forgetting her first profession as a pharmacist, Alisa also studied the microbiological and anti-bleeding properties of cuttlefish bone; she developed and investigated a number of biopharmaceutical compositions with cuttlefish bone: suppositories for hemorrhoid and suspended gels for wound healing.


Epilogue

Talking to an engineer, the father of Alisa’s fellow pharmacist, about the topic of her dissertation, she was from afar, delicately asked about ethical awareness: “Anyone taken from the sea will sooner or later be called back,” he said then. To which, as a second-year doctoral student at the time, Alisa excitedly replied: “In India, since ancient times, after the natural death of these mollusks, endless cuttlefish bones resemble like “foam” on the seashore, carried and washed by waves. Sepia bone is also called “samudra phena“, which translates from Indian as “sea foam”, due to its white color and buoyancy properties. Conclusion: the sea itself puts a sepia bone in a human’s hands, so there is no conflict between the sea and a man in this place.”

Already in later doctoral courses and after defending her doctoral dissertation, a quiet inner voice shyly whispered about some other truth… The mollusk cuttlefish has been used since ancient times both as food, but as much as a fisherman could caught. However, in the modern fishing industry, hundreds of tons of these mollusks are pulled from the seas to become human surplus food, and the huge mountains of cuttlefish bones are left as a by-product; however, these bones are also sold and distributed for various purposes around the world, taking everything from the sea to the last drop (gram), thus returning nothing to the sea.

Everything for the good of man! And that, of course, requires some sacrifices. Yes, yes, it requires in vivo research – the suffering of laboratory rabbits, the release of harsh chemicals from sealed laboratory bottles, huge amount of disposable laboratory vessels and accessories, plastic instruments, most of which will sooner or later settle in some form in the earth’s crust… She embraced all this sad truth about the vicious circle in which a young, enthusiastic man of this age, striving for Science, is entangled.  Alisa was trying not to lose optimism.

“I am one of those who, like Nobel, believe that new discoveries will bring more good than evil to humanity,”

said Pierre Curie in his speech in Stockholm (a quote from their daughter, Eva Curie, written in the book “Marie Curie”).

Noble words of a genius in science!

In the 21st century, the time has come for humanity to return what was “given”. To strike a balance, current and future discoveries should bring back what we have taken, plundered, borrowed from the natural industrial industry for centuries of growth. And the idealistic inner voice then leads to the utopian idea that the only way to a peaceful future of nature and humanity is to be able to take only as much as fits in your palms, only as much as nature itself willingly shares with you.

References

  1. GOODMAN, S.R. (2008). Chapter 3. Calcium Regulation of Skeletal Muscle Contraction is Mediated by Troponin and Tropomyosin. In: Medical Cell Biology (GOODMAN, S.R. (ed.)). Amsterdam: Elsevier, 59–100.

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