Designing Cell Instructive Extracellular Matrices - IBB Breakfast Club

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IBB Breakfast Club Seminar - Thomas Barker, PhD - Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering.

"Designing Cell Instructive Extracellular Matrices"

The Extracellular Matrix (ECM) is a complex milieu of structural protein filaments, proteoglycans, soluble and substrate bound growth factors, and specialized non-structural proteins such as matricellular proteins. Together, these biochemical elements support and instruct specific cell behaviors. Recently, there have been significant efforts to understand cellular microenvironments, aka 'niches', and their instructive role during complex tissue formation (e.g. organogenesis during development) and pathogenesis (e.g. fibrosis and cancer metastasis). From the engineering perspective, one would like to use such fundamental knowledge in the design of cell-instructive matrices for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. However, balancing the pro-regenerative and pro-pathogenesis elements of the ECM is not trivial. Our research specifically focuses on the role of the provisional ECM (injury-induced formation of fibrin clots) and the intermediate ECM (cell-derived fibronectin-rich matrices) in directing cellular behaviors and how to engineer these systems to drive desired cell phenotypes toward tissue regeneration rather than scar (fibrosis) formation. In the context of this research, both the biomechanics and biochemistry of ECMs are viewed as tunable variables to be explored.

Our research in this area has lead to the discovery of fundamental knowledge about the mechanisms of fibrin polymer formation (i.e. fibrin knob-hole interactions) and the 'hijacking' of this native biology to both modify the mechanical characteristics and the biochemical landscape of the resultant polymer. We have further developed fibronectin-based integrin-specific ECM fragments that can be incorporated into natural and synthetic polymer systems and display control over cell phenotype. Finally, research on the role of ECM mechanics on directing cell phenotype have lead to new insights on mechanics-driven pathogenesis and material design for tissue regeneration.

Barker Lab

Coffee and continental breakfast will be served. Join us!


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Colly Mitchell
  • Created:08/04/2010
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016