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Guest seminar: The cellular niche and its relevance for in-situ cardiovascular tissue engineering

Presentation: 27.1 at 11-12 in Auditorium Farmaci (Biocity 3rd Floor)

Presenter: Carlijn Bouten, Eindhoven University of Technology

Presentation abstract:

The microenvironment (or “niche”) of a living cell is a critical determinant of cell fate, cell function and even tissue build-up. Since the groundbreaking work of Adam Engler in 2006 on the manipulation of stem cell differentiation by changing the stiffness of the cellular environment in 2D, stem cell biologists and engineers intensified their joined exploration of the relevance of mechanical cues in the cellular niche. Next to stiffness, cell behavior appeared to be critically influenced by local strains, substrate topology, and structural anisotropy, offering handles to fine-tune cell function and perhaps even “cure” compromised cells. Though experimental studies in two dimensions have been abundantly performed, studies in three dimensions proved difficult, mainly due to experimental limitations. Yet, the natural niche has three dimensions and optimization of biomaterials as artificial niches for cells in tissue engineering approaches requires insights from 3D studies.

This lecture reviews the various fundamental steps we take on our journey to gathering data on the interactions between cells and their natural or artificial 3D environments. Of special interest to our research are the differential responses of circulating cells and tissue cells when they home in artificial environments, also named “scaffolds”, for cardiovascular tissue engineering. These cellular responses, in terms of cell adhesion, migration, differentiation and function, will be used to provide design criteria for biomaterials that guide and control neo tissue formation inside the human body.


Carlijn Bouten is full professor of Cell-Matrix Interaction in Cardiovascular Regeneration in the Department of Biomedical Engineering of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). Her research concentrates on new engineering approaches to regenerate the tissues of the human heart. A particular example is the development of a synthetic, bio-degradable heart valve prosthesis that ‘seduces’ the body to create a new, living heart valve at the site of implantation. The research is performed in close collaboration with material scientists, life scientists, and clinicians, and mainly executed within public-private partnerships.

Prof Bouten is theme-leader ‘Regenerative Medicine’ of the strategic area Health at TU/e and jointly established CREATE, the Center for Regenerative Engineering at Eindhoven. She is recipient of the prestigious Aspasia and VICI career development awards of the Dutch National Science Foundation. She was member of 'The Young Academy' of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and is member of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences. She is also founding fellow of the European Alliance for Medical and Biological Engineering and Science (EAMBES), member of the board of directors of the Heart Valve Society, and member of AcademiaNet for Outstanding Female Scientists and Scholars in Europe. She is associate editor of J. Biomechanical Engineering, section editor of Current Opinion in Biomedical Engineering, and advisory editorial member for Trends in Biotechnology. She published over 150 publications on ISI journals and 16 book chapters on biomedical and tissue engineering.

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