Each cell produces a tissue-specific extracellular matrix (ECM), depending on the environment needed. A bone matrix, for example, contains minerals to provide firmness; a skin ECM consists mostly of collagen and elastic fibers. The ECM participates in the assembly and regeneration of tissue, regulating all important cell functions and triggering cell growth through chemical messengers.
Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB), Stuttgart, Germany, have developed an extracellular matrix. The biomaterial contains artificial chemical groups, which support natural cell behavior outside of the body. The functional ECM can ultimately be applied as a stable coating on implants, or used in cell culture dishes.
Within the "clickECM" project, the scientists developed the conditions and parameters needed for the cells to incorporate relatively high levels of labelled sugar into their extracellular matrix during their metabolism. The team then characterized the cell matrix and examined the influence of the functionalized matrix on cells.
According to the Fraunhofer team, the new materials could also be used to support healing in bones or wounds.