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Biomaterials. 2011 Jun;32(18):4211-4. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2011.02.027.

The role of ECM proteins and protein fragments in guiding cell behavior in regenerative medicine.

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The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30332-0535, USA.


The promise of biomaterials design for regenerative medicine tissue engineering is predicated on the fundamental ability to direct or guide specific and highly coordinated cellular behaviors that culminate in the creation of physiologically functional tissues and organs. To date, our efforts have focused primarily on the grafting and presentation of short synthetic peptides with just cause. Short peptides are capable of high levels of control, can be manufactured relatively easily in a highly reproducible manner under GMP guidelines and are readily modified to enable their integration with numerous current and emerging chemistries for biomaterials grafting. However, while extracellular matrix (ECM)-derived peptides have demonstrated their initial purpose of promoting cell adhesion, their general lack of specificity and significantly decreased receptor binding affinities have proven detrimental in attempts to regulate highly specific and integrated processes necessary for tissue regeneration. Unlike adhesion peptides, the natural ECM displays a complex interplay with cells by supporting environmentally sensitive and cell dependent integrin specificity and binding affinity. Furthermore, the adhesion ligands on ECM proteins display a finely tuned and evolutionarily directed spatial periodicity, of which is dynamically controlled through both mechanical and chemical modifications. These and other emerging concepts from matrix biology require our attention if biomaterials design is to fulfill its promise. Here, we are charged with debating the statement 'The use of short synthetic adhesion peptides, like RGD, is the best approach in the design of biomaterials that guide cell behavior for regenerative medicine tissue engineering'. In this Leading Opinion Paper I will focus on aspects of natural ECM proteins and protein fragments that have proven difficult, if not impossible to date, to recapitulate in peptide-based systems. While this represents an argument against the use of peptides per se, it might also be viewed as outlining the challenges and opportunities for the biomaterials field.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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