Enhanced proliferation and osteocalcin production by human osteoblast-like MG63 cells on silicon nitride ceramic discs

Biomaterials. 1999 Jul;20(13):1195-201. doi: 10.1016/s0142-9612(99)00007-1.


The biocompatibility of silicon nitride (Si3N4) was assessed in an in vitro model using the human osteoblast-like MG-63 cell line. Cells were propagated on the surface of: reaction-bonded silicon nitride discs, sintered after reaction-bonded silicon nitride discs or control polystyrene surface for 48 h. Compared to cells propagated on polystyrene surface, cells grown on the surface of unpolished silicon nitride discs had significantly lower cell yield and decreased osteocalcin production. In contrast, cells on the surface of polished silicon nitride discs showed similar proliferative capacity to control cells propagated on polystyrene surface. Cells propagated on polished discs also produced higher levels of osteocalcin than cells on unpolished discs. SEM analysis showed cells with well-delineated morphology and cytoplasmic extensions when propagated on polished sintered after reaction-bonded discs. Cells appeared more spherical, when grown on polished reaction-bonded discs. The results of this study suggest that silicon nitride is a non-toxic, biocompatible ceramic surface for the propagation of functional human bone cells in vitro. Its high wear resistance and ability to support bone cell growth and metabolism make silicone nitride an attractive candidate for clinical application. Further studies are needed to explore the feasibility of using silicon nitride clinically as an orthopedic biomaterial.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cell Culture Techniques / instrumentation
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival
  • Ceramics*
  • Cytoplasm / ultrastructure
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Osteoblasts / cytology*
  • Osteoblasts / metabolism*
  • Osteoblasts / ultrastructure
  • Osteocalcin / analysis
  • Osteocalcin / biosynthesis*
  • Polystyrenes
  • Silicon Compounds*
  • Surface Properties


  • Polystyrenes
  • Silicon Compounds
  • Osteocalcin
  • silicon nitride