Engineered Systems for Controlling Cellular Microenvironments: From Synthetic Extracellular Matrices to Multidimensional Disease Models

Wed, Mar 31, 2021, 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm

The properties of the microenvironment in which cells reside, from structure to mechanics and biochemical content, increasingly are recognized as important drivers of cell function and fate, including in the onset and progression of disease (e.g., late cancer recurrence and fibrosis). Engineering soft materials to mimic key features of these complex microenvironments offers unique opportunities to probe and direct cellular functions and to test hypotheses about the role of specific extracellular cues in these diseases. In this seminar, I will share our recent efforts to design reductionist synthetic mimics of complex collagen-rich microenvironments. Specific applications of these and other engineered systems will be discussed for the creation of relevant multidimensional controlled cell culture models. Further, the opportunity that ‘omics’ tools provide for interrogation of cell responses within these engineered systems, from benchmarking versus in vivo and patient data to obtaining unique insights into cellular responses, also will be highlighted. This multipronged approach to understanding cell-microenvironment interactions is providing new tools and insights for addressing currently intractable diseases, including lung fibrosis and late cancer recurrence.

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