BIRS Workshop Lecture Videos

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BIRS Workshop Lecture Videos

Biopolymer Matrices: From Fundamental Questions to Applied Goals Kaufman, Laura


I have long introduced my laboratory’s research on collagen I gels as a narrative of asking and answering fundamental questions to reach applied goals in biophysical studies and bioengineering applications. One such fundamental question revolves around determining key events in collagen I gelation, with a focus on the nucleation and growth entropically-driven self-assembly of collagen fibrils and subsequent fiber entanglement and network formation. An enhanced understanding of these processes would ideally lead to independent control over local and global protein content and presentation, network structural properties, and gel mechanical properties for use in physiologically relevant but well-controlled biophysical experiments, such as those interrogating signaling processes involved in cell migration in three-dimensional obstacle-strewn environments. The origin and ramifications of strain stiffening in collagen I gels have been a second area of fundamental interest, with enhanced understanding of this process potentially leading to new synthetic materials for tissue engineering as well as to biophysical experiments to interrogate the complex reciprocal mechanical interactions between cells and their local environment. I will highlight the progress and challenges in addressing these fundamental questions surrounding collagen gelation and strain stiffening and the distinct set of challenges that surrounds using the answers to these questions to achieve practical goals. Despite such challenges, I will show how even these non-ideal in vitro biopolymer gels provide opportunities for significant findings in the biophysics of cancer invasion.

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