Select functions of osteoblasts (bone-forming cells) on nanophase (materials with grain sizes less than 100 nm) alumina, titania, and hydroxyapatite (HA) were investigated using in vitro cellular models. Compared to conventional ceramics, surface occupancy of osteoblast colonies was significantly less on all nanophase ceramics tested in the present study after 4 and 6 days of culture. Osteoblast proliferation was significantly greater on nanophase alumina, titania, and HA than on conventional formulations of the same ceramic after 3 and 5 days. More importantly, compared to conventional ceramics, synthesis of alkaline phosphatase and deposition of calcium-containing mineral was significantly greater by osteoblasts cultured on nanophase than on conventional ceramics after 21 and 28 days. The results of the present study provided the first evidence of enhanced long-term ton the order of days to weeks) functions of osteoblasts cultured on nanophase ceramics; in this manner, nanophase ceramics clearly represent a unique and promising class of orthopaedic/dental implant formulations with improved osseointegrative properties. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.