Vision for Functionally Decorated and Molecularly Imprinted Polymers in Regenerative Engineering
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The emerging field of regenerative engineering offers a great challenge and an even greater opportunity for materials scientists and engineers. How can we develop materials that are highly porous to permit cellular infiltration, yet possess sufficient mechanical integrity to mimic native tissues? How can we retain and deliver bioactive molecules to drive cell organization, proliferation, and differentiation in a predictable manner? In the following perspective, we highlight recent studies that have demonstrated the vital importance of each of these questions, as well as many others pertaining to scaffold development. We posit hybrid materials synthesized by molecular decoration and molecular imprinting as intelligent biomaterials for regenerative engineering applications. These materials have potential to present cell adhesion molecules and soluble growth factors with fine-tuned spatial and temporal control, in response to both cell-driven and external triggers. Future studies in this area will address a pertinent clinical need, expand the existing repertoire of medical materials, and improve the field’s understanding of how cells and materials respond to one another.
Regenerative engineering seeks to combine our growing understandings of materials, stem cells, and developmental biology to generate therapeutic and curative treatments for a range of diseases. In this perspective, we discuss the utility and limitations of existing materials employed for regenerative engineering applications. These materials balance the dynamic need to provide mechanical strength, present therapeutic biomolecules, permit cell entry, and degrade over time. Then, we present recent developments in the field of materials science, which have generated hybrids of natural and synthetic origin. These blended, conjugated, and/or functionalized materials engage in intelligent and responsive interactions with the biological host. Specific interaction-response examples are discussed for the regeneration of nerve, bone, and cardiac muscle. In the future, intelligent materials for regenerative engineering will respond dynamically to signals produced by a patient’s cells or administered in a clinical intervention to facilitate tissue growth, healing, and recovery.
KeywordsRegenerative engineering Drug delivery Bioconjugation Molecular imprinting Intelligent biomaterials
The authors would like to acknowledge financial support from the UT-Portugal Collaborative Research program (CoLAB). JRC and MEW are supported by NSF Graduate Research Fellowships.
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