The investigation of cell function can open a window into
biomolecular systems, allowing researchers to better understand the
mechanics of life and the key processes that maintain it. Protein
gradients play an important part in directing cell behavior in
biological systems; for example, gradients of proteins termed morphogens
govern the development of tissue, ensuring that the various specialized
cells present within a tissue structure are positioned properly.
Microfluidic systems have been widely used to model these cell processes
in the lab; however, until now the materials most commonly used have not
fully replicated the cellular microenvironment. New work from Professor
Matthias Lutolf's team at EPFL Lausanne seeks to change this; the
group has developed hydrogel surfaces capable of both immobilizing the
protein gradients studied and mimicking the cellular environment.
Standard lithography techniques are used to fabricate this hydrogel
system, and it could be tuned to work with a wide range of proteins
through a simple bioconjugation strategy.
M. Lutolf et al., Adv. Funct. Mater. DOI: 10.1002/adfm.200900968