Engineering cellular microenvironments involves biochemical factors, the extracellular matrix (ECM) and the interaction with neighbouring cells. This progress report provides a critical overview of key studies that incorporate growth factor (GF) signalling and mechanotransduction into the design of advanced microenvironments. Materials systems have been developed for surface-bound presentation of GFs, either covalently tethered or sequestered through physico-chemical affinity to the matrix, as an alternative to soluble GFs. Furthermore, some materials contain both GF and integrin binding regions and thereby enable synergistic signalling between the two. Mechanotransduction refers to the ability of the cells to sense physical properties of the ECM and to transduce them into biochemical signals. Various aspects of the physics of the ECM, i.e. stiffness, geometry and ligand spacing, as well as time-dependent properties, such as matrix stiffening, degradability, viscoelasticity, surface mobility as well as spatial patterns and gradients of physical cues are discussed. To conclude, various examples illustrate the potential for cooperative signalling of growth factors and the physical properties of the microenvironment for potential applications in regenerative medicine, cancer research and drug testing.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering
- Pharmaceutical Science