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We aim to direct cellular behavior by means of material properties. In order to achieve this, a fundamental understanding needs to be created how cells respond to materials, in particular towards several parameters simultaneously. Parameters such as stiffness, chemical composition (charge, polarity, non-covalent interactions, hydrophobicity etc.), and topography are parameters known to drastically influence cellular behaviors. When the single parameters influence the behavior of cells then combined parameters do this as well and not necessarily in a predictive fashion. We study this using complex multiparameter interfaces and nanomaterials.
By combining various disciplines ranging from chemistry (organic/polymer/physical) to biology and medicine in an environment as diverse as the University Medical Center Groningen, a more translational approach towards functional systems is envisioned to be reached. This is facilitated by close collaborations between the W.J. Kolff Institute for BioMedical Engineering and Materials Science, the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, Engineering Institute Groningen, and Stratingh Institute for Chemistry. In the end it is expected that the created fundamental understanding how materials influence cellular behavior, combined with a multidisciplinary approach for translation, novel applications and actual implementation clinical uses will be achieved.
We use various approaches to tailor properties of (nano)materials. This can be structural features on surfaces such as surface topography or directed assembly of protein-based nanomaterials (artificial virus structures), mechanical properties of the bulk and microgels (hydrogel-based nanoparticles), or chemical properties altering surface chemistry of materials or chemical composition of nanoparticles. The three major tool that we use are:
1. Complex surface gradients
2. Microgels/polymeric hydrogel nanoparticles
3. Virus particles and their protein capsid sub-units
The above systems allow us to alter the properties and combine them with various cell types including mesenchymal stem cells, macrophages, fibroblasts, muscle sattelite cells (muscle stem cells), and many others for understanding how we can enhance or direct processes such as differentiation behavior, tissue/cell morphology, migration, cellular uptake, foreign body response (fibrosis), and cell training/memory implantation. For studying many of these aspects, we collaborate with experts in the field and thereby combining materials science and chemistry with engineering and expert biological and medical experience.
Below there are a few keywords that best described our research focus and interests on various matters.
Proteins / Viruses
Stem Cell Differentiation
Cell Adhesion - Morphology
Complex Cell Co-cultures
Coatings & Biointerface Technology