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Design2Heal Report Summary

Project ID: 617989
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Germany

Mid-Term Report Summary - DESIGN2HEAL (Rational design of scaffold architecture and functionalization to induce healing and tissue regeneration)

When materials are implanted into the body they initiate an inflammatory response that is difficult to control. Consequently medical implants are tolerated by the body rather than fully integrated; the material is often sealed off from the body in a fibrotic capsule. Most recent research suggests that morphology is a decisive immunomodulatory trigger and may favor a healing-like reaction of the innate immune system, especially of macrophages.

Design2Heal is based on a unique combination of technologies and proposes to combine form (scaffold morphology) with function (surface chemistry) to generate biomaterials that are designed to heal and improve implant integration. Research within Design2Heal aims at unravelling the immunomodulatory potential of generic scaffold parameters (diameter, morphology) and surface functionalization (e.g. peptides) for rationally designed scaffolds in vitro with primary human innate immune cells. It further aims at resolving the immunomodulatory effects of cellular cross-talk and interaction between human immune cells, mesenchymal stem cells and endothelial progenitor cells in defined geometric confinements.

In the first phase of the project, the fabrication technology for fiber-based scaffolds was developed and the limit was pushed towards the production of scaffolds composed of sub-micrometer filaments in highly ordered geometry. A library of more than 500 different scaffolds, including systematic variation of fiber diameter, spacing, angle orientation of the fibers towards each other, and overall geometry of the pores, was generated. We also established single cell culture and cell co-culture models and protocols on the scaffolds and elucidated first effects of scaffold geometry on cell behaviour. Systematic evaluation of the interplay between the scaffolds, now with increasing focus also on the surface chemistry, and the cells in mono- and co-cell culture is ongoing.

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