Icing on the Cake: Coating Smart Polymers to Control Cell Interactions
Cells and tissues are arguably the ultimate “smart materials”: dynamic material structures capable of changing their architecture and composition to control and to respond to their local microenvironment. Synthetic biomedical biomaterials must be able to integrate well with cells to augment damaged cells, treat diseases, and replace organs. However, biomaterials typically lack the natural robust architectural and compositional dynamics of cells. This project solves this problem by developing a biomimetic, dynamic, responsive biomaterial to enable significant advances across diverse biomaterials-based fields. The biomaterial combines two polymer systems: poly-electrolyte multi-layers with embedded biomolecules coated onto a shape changing polymer substrate. Furthermore, nano and micro biomimetic patterned topographies can be used with the polymer substrate. An intrinsic change within the polymer substrate can catalyze release of embedded molecules in the top coating for improved cell interactions. This research is the first to explore the novel combination of these two polymer systems. This biomaterial represents innovation at the intersection of three disciplines: biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and mechanical engineering. Such materials hold the promise of enabling smart materials and devices that not only control but also respond intelligently to the physiological environment.