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Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2018 Jun 4;20:49-72. doi: 10.1146/annurev-bioeng-062117-121011. Epub 2018 Jan 12.

Engineering Approaches to Study Cellular Decision Making.

Author information

1
Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA; email: kreeger@wisc.edu , kmasters@wisc.edu.
2
Department of Cell and Regenerative Biology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health , Madison, Wisconsin 53705, USA.
3
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin 53705, USA.
4
Carbone Cancer Center, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin 53792, USA.
5
Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin 53792, USA.

Abstract

In their native environment, cells are immersed in a complex milieu of biochemical and biophysical cues. These cues may include growth factors, the extracellular matrix, cell-cell contacts, stiffness, and topography, and they are responsible for regulating cellular behaviors such as adhesion, proliferation, migration, apoptosis, and differentiation. The decision-making process used to convert these extracellular inputs into actions is highly complex and sensitive to changes both in the type of individual cue (e.g., growth factor dose/level, timing) and in how these individual cues are combined (e.g., homotypic/heterotypic combinations). In this review, we highlight recent advances in the development of engineering-based approaches to study the cellular decision-making process. Specifically, we discuss the use of biomaterial platforms that enable controlled and tailored delivery of individual and combined cues, as well as the application of computational modeling to analyses of the complex cellular decision-making networks.

KEYWORDS:

cell–cell communication; extracellular matrix; growth factors; intracellular signaling; microfluidics

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