About this Research Topic
Recent studies have provided compelling empirical evidence that Extracellular Matrix (ECM) dynamics is critical for organization and maintenance of biological form and function. New evidence that the ECM is a dynamic entity comes from three major areas of investigation: 1) biology and biochemistry, 2) bioengineering and biomaterials, and 3) pathology and clinical medicine. Following the first volume Extracellular Matrix Dynamics in Biology, Bioengineering, and Pathology, the research and review articles from this collection will highlight ECM dynamics in the critical process of biological organization and maintenance; they will also present advances in ECM bioengineering and address how aberrant ECM dynamics leads to pathologies.
In metazoans, the ECM is an integral physical/chemical component featuring dynamic properties as early as the two-cell stage embryo. The ECM continues to impact biological processes as the organism advances through major developmental milestones. Thus, early morphogenesis and organogenesis continue to provide a fertile ground for the elucidation of mechanisms that underlie a dynamic ECM. The shift in perception of ECM as a dynamic entity is in no small measure attributable to the studies in physical sciences. A major thrust was provided by the application of rigorous quantitative approaches — the hallmark of bioengineering investigations — to study the dynamic interaction between the cells and ECM. What could have been a potentially complicated and intractable phenomenon in the whole organism, or, even in the whole organ, becomes tractable when the dynamic interactions between the ECM and cells are subjected to computational as well as modeling approaches. Complementing the evidence for a dynamic ECM in biology and bioengineering are novel multidisciplinary approaches allowing investigators to model the ECM using biologically derived and synthetic hydrogels and examine ECM dynamics under diverse pathobiological conditions such as wound repair, fibrosis, and cancer.
Collectively, the biological and computational approaches described here provide a strong foundation to design testable hypotheses in which the ECM is a dynamic entity equal in importance to cellular motion for life processes. By combining biological and engineering approaches, students of the ECM are now poised to explore its dynamical properties at all levels of biological organization — from molecules to whole organs.
Keywords: extracellular matrix dynamics, ECM
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