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The Right Direction

Mimicking the natural architecture of the extracellular matrix to improve hydrogels aiding tissue regeneration

23 September 2022

The Right Direction

Whether it’s a broken heart or leg, we all need a little support to fully recover. Researchers are aiming to improve the hydrogels that are used to help tissues with limited natural capacity for regeneration. These gels mimic the natural extracellular matrix, which guides movement and interaction between cells. A new study asked what changing the properties of one such injectable substance, which consists of tiny oriented microgels woven through a hydrogel structure, would mean for the orientation of brain cells and their spindly protrusions (pictured under four different conditions). They discovered that the stiffness of microgels, whether the hydrogel was synthetic or biologically-derived, and whether the microgels had natural extracellular matrix components added all impacted the directional growth of the cells. Mimicking the complex, multidirectional architecture of the natural environment while providing additional support for healthy growth and regeneration could provide safe alternatives and enhancements to current transplant treatments.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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