The extracellular matrix

December 12, 2011
Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) image of the designed extracellular matrix

NPL scientists have created a functional model of the native extracellular matrix which provides structural support to cells to aid growth and proliferation and could lead to advances in regenerative medicine.

The extracellular matrix (ECM) provides the physical and chemical conditions that enable the development of all . It is a complex nano-to-microscale structure made up of protein fibres and serves as a dynamic substrate that supports tissue repair and regeneration.

Man-made structures designed to mimic and replace the native matrix in damaged or diseased tissues are highly sought after to advance our understanding of tissue organisation and to make regenerative medicine a reality.

Self-assembling peptide fibres that have similar properties to those of the native matrices are of particular interest. However, these near-crystalline fail to arrange themselves into interconnected meshes at the , which is critical for bringing cells together and supporting .

To solve this problem, a research team at NPL designed a small protein consisting of two complementary domains (structural units) that promote the formation of highly branched networks of fibres that span microscopic dimensions. The team showed that the created matrix is very efficient in supporting cell attachment, growth and proliferation.

Explore further: Coming Soon: Blood Vessels from a Test Tube?

Related Stories

Coming Soon: Blood Vessels from a Test Tube?

June 4, 2007

Our tissues and organs consist of a complex, closely balanced assembly of different types of cells, extracellular matrix, and special signal-carrying molecules. The growth of such structures in the laboratory, perhaps for ...

Hydrogels provide scaffolding for growth of bone cells

August 17, 2008

Hyaluronic hydrogels developed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers may provide a suitable scaffolding to enable bone regeneration. The hydrogels, created by Newell Washburn, Krzysztof Matyjaszewski and Jeffrey Hollinger, ...

Recommended for you

New polymer creates safer fuels

October 1, 2015

Before embarking on a transcontinental journey, jet airplanes fill up with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. In the event of a crash, such large quantities of fuel increase the severity of an explosion upon impact. Researchers ...

Researchers print inside gels to create unique shapes

September 30, 2015

(—A team of researchers at the University of Florida has taken the technique of printing objects inside of a gel a step further by using a highly shear-rate sensitive gel. In their paper published in the journal ...

How a molecular motor untangles protein

October 1, 2015

A marvelous molecular motor that untangles protein in bacteria may sound interesting, yet perhaps not so important. Until you consider the hallmarks of several neurodegenerative diseases—Huntington's disease has tangled ...

Anti-aging treatment for smart windows

October 1, 2015

Electrochromic windows, so-called 'smart windows', share a well-known problem with rechargeable batteries – their limited lifespan. Researchers at Uppsala University have now worked out an entirely new way to rejuvenate ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.