Modelling of the biologic materials, well-organized multifunctional structures and systems found in nature has attracted the interest of scientists working in many scientific disciplines. A new and rapidly growing field of biomimetics has stimulated an increased focus on biological materials as the researchers attempt to mimic the features, characteristics and growth of these naturally-occurring materials. This review discusses the principal features of biomineralization in relation to the controlled crystallization of inorganic materials and biomimetic routes to the formation of nanometer hydroxyapatite particles. This approach can be compared with biologic mineralization and has the potential for providing much greater control of particle size and distribution than would conventional methods. The constant-composition method has been used to study the influence of polyelectrolytes on the kinetics of crystal growth of hydroxyapatite (HAP), the thermodynamically most stable calcium phosphate phase, on HAP seed crystals at pH 7.4 and 37 degrees C. The results indicate that polyelectrolyte concentration and the larger number of negatively charged functional groups markedly affect the growth rate. The fit of the Langmuir adsorption model to the experimental data supports a mechanism of inhibition through molecular adsorption of polymers on the surface of growing crystals. This system may allow insights into biomineralization processes. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.