Mimicking the natural architecture of the extracellular matrix to improve hydrogels aiding tissue regeneration
Whether it’s a broken heart or leg, we all need a little support to fully recover. Researchers are aiming to improve the hydrogels that are used to help tissues with limited natural capacity for regeneration. These gels mimic the natural extracellular matrix, which guides movement and interaction between cells. A new study asked what changing the properties of one such injectable substance, which consists of tiny oriented microgels woven through a hydrogel structure, would mean for the orientation of brain cells and their spindly protrusions (pictured under four different conditions). They discovered that the stiffness of microgels, whether the hydrogel was synthetic or biologically-derived, and whether the microgels had natural extracellular matrix components added all impacted the directional growth of the cells. Mimicking the complex, multidirectional architecture of the natural environment while providing additional support for healthy growth and regeneration could provide safe alternatives and enhancements to current transplant treatments.
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