Synthetic Polymer-Network Based Materials in Stem Cell Research


Owing to the pioneering research in the early 1990s popularizing the use of degradable polymers in aspects of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine (Langer and Vacanti 1993), polymeric networks have since received fervent interest for a range of biomedical applications (Hubbell 1995, Varghese and Elisseeff 2006). The central paradigm has developed from a realization that synthetic matrices can in many ways mimic natural extracellular matrices, which are essential to regulate cell behaviour in biological systems (Shastri and Lendlein 2009, 2010). Numerous parameters such as cellular attachment, structural and rheological parameters, biodegradability, and solute diffusion, can be rationally controlled during synthesis, leading to potentially very powerful tools for regulating biological processes. In biomaterial research polymeric networks are used for various applications such as vehicles for cell delivery, scaffolds for cellular adhesion and harvesting, and as sources of soluble or immobilized Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht, Center for Biomaterial Development and Berlin Brandenburg Centre for Regenerative Therapies, D-14513 Teltow, Germany. aEmail: Corresponding author growth factors to promote cell differentiation (Chai and Leong 2007, Dawson et al. 2008, Hwang et al. 2008). It has been realized that stem cells can be manipulated in contact with materials other than native tissues, and as such polymeric biomaterials can often serve as a “blank slate” for incorporating functionalities without interference from inherent interactions from naturally occurring biopolymers.
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