Methods for measuring crystallization in urolithiasis research: Why, how and when?

Bernhard Hess, Rosemary L. Ryall, John P. Kavanagh, Saeed R. Khan, Dirk Jan Kok, Allen L. Rodgers, Hans Göran Tiselius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Whereas crystalluria does not distinguish between kidney stone formers and healthy people and thus can be considered a physiologic event, kidney stone formation is a pathologic incident and reflects a specific form of biomineralization. Both single urinary crystals as well as whole kidney stones form under exquisite control of organic macromolecules. Simple crystal formation in the urinary tract is distinguished from stone formation in the kidney by the process of particle retention. The latter occurs either because nucleated crystals strongly aggregate to particles too large to pass freely through the tubules ('free particle' theory), or because crystals become abnormally adherent to tubular cell surfaces ('fixed particle' theory). Since it is impossible to mimic all the processes involved in stone formation in vitro, it is highly important to carefully chose a specific crystallization process for in vitro studies, and to select the most appropriate experimental conditions for measuring the chosen process as reliably as possible. This overview aims at critically reviewing the principles of currently available assay systems for studying crystallization processes involved in stone formation. Consensus is reached by the experts that no in vitro system really mimics what happens in renal stone formation, but that carefully designed in vitro studies will always play an important part in urolithiasis research. For such studies, it is highly important to exactly control the appropriate experimental conditions that are relevant to a specific crystallization process under investigation. Practical guidelines for researchers working with crystallization systems are provided, and it is concluded that international efforts should be made to standardize the terminology, to agree on a set of basic experimental parameters (temperature, pH, artificial urine composition), and to adopt simple tests or conditions are reference points for quality and comparative control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-230
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Urology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomineralization
  • Crystallization assay systems
  • In vitro Crystallization measurements
  • Inhibitors and promoters
  • Macromolecular modulators
  • Nucleation, growth and aggregation
  • Particle retention
  • Urolithiasis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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