The development of bioactive platforms that are able to direct and guide cell fate represents a relevant step towards tissue and organ regeneration in vitro and in vivo. One of the greatest obstacles, however, that has hampered the development of such bioactive platforms concerns our limited knowledge on the basic biological principles that govern cell-signal and cell-material interactions. Therefore, an improved understanding on the effects of molecular and physical signals on cell behaviour is of fundamental relevance for developing novel and smart bioactive materials that are able to trigger specific cell functions according to predefined schemes.
The research project aims at defining the most relevant biochemical-biophysical signals for eliciting specific cell activities and developing strategies to encode these signals onto synthetic platforms with a tight control on their spatial arrangement and temporal evolution.
Cell Instructive Materials (CIMs)
Cells interact with the extracellular environment by recognizing molecular signals, processing the information and eventually changing its state.
Understanding the language with which cells communicate with the external environments plays an essential role to design and develop a novel class of bioactive materials. As Nature provides cells with multiple signals and orchestrates their spatial arrangement and temporal evolution we must create smart platforms which present the correct signals at the right time and in the right place. This of course raises relevant cognitive and technological issues.
Firstly, the basic cell biology underlying cell-material interactions are largely obscure. Secondly, novel design concepts have to be developed in order to efficiently encode arrays of bioactive signals on synthetic platforms, with a precise spatial arrangement and temporal evolution.
The research activities involved in this project will use nanotechnologies and nanomanipulation techniques in order to encode on synthetic platforms, arrays of selected biophysical/biochemical signals with tight spatial and temporal control.
Fig 1. Representation of an ideal cell instructive material. Biochemical and biophysical signals are written on a substrate and their spatial arrangement and temporal evolution are tightly controlled.