Cell motility is ubiquitous in both normal and pathophysiological processes. It is a complex biophysical response elicited via the integration of diverse extracellular physicochemical cues. The extracellular matrix directs cell motilityvia gradients in morphogens (a.k.a. chemotaxis), adhesive proteins (haptotaxis), and stiffness (durotaxis). Three-dimensional geometrical and proteolytic cues also constitute key regulators of motility. Therefore, cells process a variety of physicochemical signals simultaneously, while making informed decisions about migration viaintracellular processing. Over the last few decades, bioengineers have created and refined natural and synthetic in vitro platforms in an attempt to isolate these extracellular cues and tease out how cells are able to translate this complex array of dynamic biochemical and biophysical features into functional motility. Here, we review how biomaterials have played a key role in the development of these types of model systems, and how recent advances in engineered materials have significantly contributed to our current understanding of the mechanisms of cell migration.
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