Biomaterials-based approaches to model embryogenesis
Understanding, reproducing, and regulating the cellular and molecular processes underlying human embryogenesis is critical to improve our ability to recapitulate tissues with proper architecture and function, and to address the dysregulation of embryonic programs that underlies birth defects and cancer. The rapid emergence of stem cell technologies is enabling enormous progress in understanding embryogenesis using simple, powerful, and accessible in vitro models. Biomaterials are playing a central role in providing the spatiotemporal organisation of biophysical and biochemical signalling necessary to mimic, regulate and dissect the evolving embryonic niche in vitro. This contribution is rapidly improving our understanding of the mechanisms underlying embryonic patterning, in turn enabling the development of more effective clinical interventions for regenerative medicine and oncology. Here we highlight how key biomaterial approaches contribute to organise signalling in human embryogenesis models, and we summarise the biological insights gained from these contributions. Importantly, we highlight how nanotechnology approaches have remained largely untapped in this space, and we identify their key potential contributions.