Design of growth factor sequestering biomaterials
Growth factors (GFs) are major regulatory proteins that can govern cell fate, migration, and organization. Numerous aspects of the cell milieu can modulate cell responses to GFs, and GF regulation is often achieved by the native extracellular matrix (ECM). For example, the ECM can sequester GFs and thereby control GF bioavailability. In addition, GFs can exert distinct effects depending on whether they are sequestered in solution, at two-dimensional interfaces, or within three-dimensional matrices. Understanding how the context of GF sequestering impacts cell function in the native ECM can instruct the design of soluble or insoluble GF sequestering moieties, which can then be used in a variety of bioengineering applications. This Feature Article provides an overview of the natural mechanisms of GF sequestering in the cell milieu, and reviews the recent bioengineering approaches that have sequestered GFs to modulate cell function. Results to date demonstrate that the cell response to GF sequestering depends on the affinity of the sequestering interaction, the spatial proximity of sequestering in relation to cells, the source of the GF (supplemented or endogenous), and the phase of the sequestering moiety (soluble or insoluble). We highlight the importance of context for the future design of biomaterials that can leverage endogenous molecules in the cell milieu and mitigate the need for supplemented factors.