About this Research Topic
Extracellular Matrix (ECM) has been considered for a long time merely a scaffold sustaining cell and tissue function. Despite this simplistic view shared by many, nowadays ECM and their mechanic-physical and chemical characteristic acquired a progressive larger role actively regulating cell life: survival, proliferation, gene expression and differentiation. The interplay between cells and the ECM is continuously controlled at the cell level in a dynamic way. While cells synthesize the raw components of the ECM, this in turn impacts on cell function by providing chemical, topographical and mechanical hints. Such stimuli have been proven to control several aspects of cell function, including survival, proliferation, differentiation and migration. The molecular pathways activated by cells in response to the physical cues arising from the ECM are being disclosed and thus the possibility to control cell function through materials design is becoming more realistic.
Current in vitro protocols, relying in 2D cell culture system, entail reductionist approaches to the complexity of cell-ECM interaction and result in cells rapidly losing their distinctive functions in culture.
Understanding and replicating the 3D microenvironmental cues affecting cell function appears as a mandatory requirement for the development of next-generation biomaterials, as well as for the establishment of more physiologically relevant and predictive in vitro models of diseases. Such an effort will require a multidisciplinary approach at the convergence of biophysics, biology, nanotechnology, and bioengineering.
The topic will provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the current methods of cell-specific culture, thus highlighting the limitations of present strategies. More importantly, the contributions will be selected based on the ability to deliver a fresh vision on the future of ECM and stem/progenitor cells activity, disease-modeling, biomaterials science and combined approaches to reply the complexity of 3D ECM-cell interplay.
Keywords: Mechanobiology, cell-ECM interaction, topographic cues, biomaterial surface engineering, stem cell fate
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