Interface Biology of Implants
© The Author(s) 2012
Received: 4 July 2012
Accepted: 30 July 2012
Published: 15 August 2012
To successfully apply implant materials for regenerative processes in the body, understanding the mechanisms at the interface between cells or tissues and the artificial material is of critical importance. This topic is becoming increasing relevant for clinical applications. For the fourth time, around 200 scientists met in Rostock, Germany for the international symposium “Interface Biology of Implants”. The aim of the symposium is to promote interdisciplinary dialogue between scientists from different disciplines. The symposium also emphasizes the need of this applied scientific field for permanent input from basic sciences.
Session 3 of the symposium focussed on material induced biological responses. To study and manipulate stem cells in vitro, M. Lutolf (Lausanne) developed a biomaterial-based approach to display and deliver stem cell regulatory signals in a precise and near-physiological fashion which serves as an artificial microenvironment. He demonstrated that 2D and 3D microarrayed artificial niches based on hydrogels can be used as a platform to study the complexity of the biochemical characteristics of a stem cell niche. For the systematic deconstruction of a stem cell niche into a smaller number of distinct signalling interactions, Lutolf applies high-throughput screening systems . This systematic screening of the physiological complexity is aimed at defining and reconstructing artificial niches for the transition of stem cell biology into the clinic. Because regenerative processes depend on the interaction of different cell types, C. J. Kirkpatrick (Mainz) asked how biomaterials control the biological response in co-culture systems in vitro. His special interest is in the stimulation of endothelial cell differentiation by osteoblasts to promote vascularisation. On a polymer a co-culture of endothelial progenitor cells with osteoblasts stimulated the formation of lumen-containing microvessel-like structures . Determining how changes of the chemical composition of a scaffold and the introduction of a further cell type into the co-culture influence vessel formation is a current research topic. The group of M. Riehle (Glasgow) is interested in the development of a three-dimensional scaffold which allows the control of cells of the nervous system. The construct consists of rolled up nano/microstructured sheets, and individual aspects of the material, such as porosity, topography, stiffness, and geometry, can be tuned. Optimized scaffolds induced a myelination of neuronal long-term cultures. Materials can control the biology of cells, such as differentiation and proliferation, via regulating the cell shape. K. Anselme (Mulhouse) is interested in topographically-induced changes in the shape of the cell nucleus which might be of physiological relevance. She found that nuclei in living cells can be severely deformed and adopt the surface topography of the underlying material without consequences in differentiation or proliferation.
Since the finding of Discher’s group that the stiffness of the substrate for cell adhesion determines the direction of stem cell differentiation , cell mechanics has also attracted the attention of researchers in the field of tissue engineering. In session 4 of the symposium, talks presented basic insights into mechanically induced mechanisms as well as material-related aspects of cell mechanics. The work of V. Vogel (Zurich) has significantly contributed to our understanding of how cells sense and transform mechanical signals into biochemical signals to regulate cell function. Her talk focused on the mechanical aspects of bacterial adhesion. The adhesin of Escherichia coli forms a catch bond with surface-exposed mannose which is regulated by mechanical forces. These structures are also used by macrophages to remove E. coli from their surface. Investigations with Staphylococcus aureus revealed that the bacterial adhesins can distinguish physically stretched from relaxed fibronectin fibers . Two short talks presented evidence for the role of the focal adhesion protein vinculin in force transmission by the cells. V. Auernheimer (Erlangen) demonstrated that vinculin binding to actin, to the src-substrate p130cas and its phosphorylation on position Y1065, is required to transmit mechanical forces. Using vinculin-deficient fibroblasts, I. Thievessen (Erlangen) presented data which show that vinculin mediates the actin retrograde flow to focal adhesions in migrating cells. For tissue engineering approaches, it is important to predict how the interaction between cells, biomaterial and external stimuli, which include mechanical forces, induce healing of tissue. D. Lacroix (Sheffield) has developed a computational model in which he simulates cell seeding, proliferation, and differentiation to optimize cell seeding as a function of cell density, pore shape and pore size in a scaffold . The model involves the calculation of local mechanical stimuli, and it is believed that such an approach will provide a rationale for the design of tissue engineering scaffolds.
In conclusion, the symposium is becoming a tradition, and scientists who attended it for the first time will become permanent attendees. The meeting is attractive, both for registered participants and internationally renowned invited speakers. This is for several reasons: the topic is of increasing relevance for clinical applications; the conference is strongly focused on the interface of medical implants; and the conference brings together various disciplines and receives input from basic sciences. The rather small audience and having no sessions in parallel stimulate a fruitful communication between scientists.
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