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Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine
Understanding cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions has been a major goal for biomaterials scientists to engineer materials that can recapitulate complex ECM-mediated cellular responses. Although 3D natural matrices have been found suitable for the study of many cellular processes, they are limited by lot-to-lot compositional and structural variability, inability to decouple mechanical and biochemical properties, and in some cases, their tumor-derived nature limits their clinical translational potential. Therefore, this project aims to develop an engineered synthetic hydrogel matrix that presents independently-tunable basement membrane-like bioactivity and mechanical properties, and can support assembly into 3D multicellular structures recapitulating different epithelial morphogenesis programs. This synthetic hydrogel technology is significant as it allows the study of the independent contributions of ECM properties to different epithelial morphogenetic programs, and forms a basis for the adaptation to in vitro generation and in vivo delivery of human organoids for regenerative medicine.