design and apply polymer matrices for regenerative therapies
Polymer matrices with temporally and spatially tuned cell signalling characteristics are developed for in vitro or in vivo tissue engineering. For this purpose, the physical and molecular stimuli of cellular microenvironments are systematically imitated using reconstituted biopolymer assemblies (consisting of collagen I, fibronectin, and other components of the extracellular matrix), supported lipid bilayer membranes, as well as synthetic and biohybrid hydrogels. Several projects are aimed towards the utilization of stem cells in new therapeutic strategies by creating combinations of exogenic signals for the control of self-renewal and differentiation of these cells – the „stem cell niche“. Accordingly, the molecular understanding of cell-matrix adhesion, the effect of physical stimuli (micro- and nanostructure, elasticity of matrices), and biomolecular cues (chemokines and growth factors) are prioritized research tasks.