Jan Lauko,1Rajat K. Das,2 Roel Hammink,2 Maarten Jaspers,2 Paul H. J. Kouwer,Alan E. Rowan. 1*


1 Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), The University of Queensland, 4072, Brisbane, Australia;
Institute for Molecules and Materials, Radboud University, 6525 AJ, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Multiple biopolymers with different structural and mechanical properties, which physically interact with each other, make the mechanical environment of a cell in vivo much more complicated than the environment of a cell in a single-component artificial matrix.1

The mechanics of natural biopolymer gels, however, are very different from most synthetic hydrogels because they show strain-stiffening behaviour.2,3 Reconstituted networks of natural extracellular matrices (ECMs), such as collagen or fibrin show a large increase in stiffness upon an applied stress or deformation.2,3 Recently a new biomimetic hydrogel was developed, based upon oligo(ethylene glycol) grafted polyisocyanopeptides.4 These extremely stiff helical polymers form gels upon warming at concentrations as low as 0.005 %-wt polymer, with materials properties almost identical to those of intermediate filaments and ECMs.3,4 The unique ability of these materials and their application in cell growth and drug therapeutics revealed the importance of polymer stiffness and material non-linear mechanics.5,6

These nonlinear mechanical properties have been extensively studied in single-component biopolymer networks, but little is known about how the stiffening response is affected by the composite nature of natural biopolymer networks such as the cytoskeleton or the extracellular matrix. Approaches on how to control the hydrogel properties, the influence of strain-stiffening on cellular fate, and novel methods of detailed micro-rheological studies will be presented.6,7



1 Janmey, P. A. et al. PLoS ONE, 2009, 4, e6382; Place, E. S. et al. Nat. Mater. 2009, 8, 457; Thiele, J. et al. Adv. Mater. 2014, 26, 125; Huber, F., Curr. Opin. Cell Biol. 2015, 32, 39; Nagelkerke, A., et al. Semin Cancer Biol. 2015, 35, 62.

2 Storm, C.; et al. Nature, 2005, 435, 191.

3 Jaspers, M. et al. Nature Comm. 2014, 5, 5808; Jaspers, M., et al. Adv. Funct. Mater. 2015, 25, 6503.

4 Kouwer, P. H. J. et al. Nature, 2013, 493, 651.

5 Mandal, S. et al. Chem. Sci., 2013, 4, 4168; Mandal, S. et al., ACS Bio 2015, 10, 485.

6 Das, R. K. et al, Nature Materials 2016, 15, 318.; Hammink, R. et al. ACS Omega, 2017, 2, 937.

7 Bruekers S.M., et al. Cell Adh. Migr. 2016, 10, 495.


Biographic Details

Name: Jan Lauko

Title: Dr.

Affiliation, Country: AIBN, The University of Queensland, Australia

Phone: +61 7 334 64179 E-mail: j.lauko@uq.edu.au

Research interests: biopolymers, organic synthesis, confocal rheology.


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