Interactions between cells and extracellular matrix (ECM) play pivotal roles in directing cellular and tissue functions. However, due to the ultra complexity of biological systems, our current understanding of cell-ECM processes and our capability to control the relevant events have been rather limited. By integrating our knowledge in material science and engineering, microfabrication and biology, our research is aimed at generating engineered extracellular microenvironment for understanding and controlling cell behavior. Experiments are designed to facilitate the analysis and identification of essential extracellular cues, which can be further applied to 2-D and 3-D artificial systems to monitor, trigger or modulate biological processes. On one application front, our materials and devices are geared toward controlling stem cell fate and directing stem cell differentiation for use of regenerative medicine. On another application front, it is our interest to build targeted and triggerable delivery systems for therapeutic compounds/cells to improve treatment outcomes.
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