Bioactive hydrogels: Mimicking the ecm with synthetic materials


Book Section

© 2006 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. In all soft tissues in our bodies, cells grow within or on a hydrogel scaffold consisting of a variety of cross-linked proteins and polysaccharides called the extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM provides mechanical support for cells within the tissue and also has direct biological interactions with the tissue cells, influencing cell adhesion, growth, migration, gene expression, morphology, and differentiation. Ideally in applications such as tissue engineering, we would like to replace many of the functions of the ECM in order to control and optimize the tissue formation process, but biomaterials used as scaffolds in tissue engineering generally serve solely as mechanical support structures. Using natural polymers such as collagen or fibrin gels provides many of the biological activities and cues, but controlling these interactions is difficult, and frequently the mechanical properties of these protein-based materials are insufficient. One option may be to create biohybrid materials composed primarily of synthetic polymers but modified with bioactive moieties such as peptides, proteins or polysaccharides. This may allow one to provide the requisite mechanical support as well as provide signals to control tissue formation and differentiation. Some of the modifications that could mimic, at least to some extent, the biological functions of the ECM would include incorporation of cell adhesive ligands, immobilization of agents with growth factor activity, and inclusion of proteolytically degradable domains within the polymer structure to allow hydrogel degradation in response to cellular remodeling activity.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • West, JL

Published Date

  • January 1, 2005

Book Title

  • Scaffolding in Tissue Engineering

Start / End Page

  • 275 - 282

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781574445213

Citation Source

  • Scopus