Body Building: Designer Gels to Promote Tissue Regeneration
Hydrogels provide a unique, largely aqueous environment for 3D cell culture, and when locally modified with appropriate signaling molecules, these synthetic niches can facilitate the regeneration of tissues. While the gel environment is often >90% water, the microscopic architecture and local chemistry play important roles in dictating cell morphology, proliferation, and differentiation; gel degradation and erosion; and the secretion and distribution of extracellular matrix molecules. This talk will illustrate examples where the regeneration of tissues is highly coupled to the biophysical and biochemical properties of the gels, and demonstrate how appropriate tuning of the gel properties can create microenvironments that simply permit cells to function to those that actively promote specific cell functions. Integral to this understanding is the ability to manipulate the underlying gel chemistry and properties through the synthesis of macromolecular precursors and control of the gelation process. The overall goal of the talk will be to illustrate some of the current advances and challenges in designing gels for tissue engineering applications and place this in the broader context of going from the bench to the bedside and back again.