Leveraging advances in biology to design biomaterials

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Biomaterials have dramatically increased in functionality and complexity, allowing unprecedented control over the cells that interact with them. From these engineering advances arises the prospect of improved biomaterial-based therapies, yet practical constraints favour simplicity. Tools from the biology community are enabling high-resolution and high-throughput bioassays that, if incorporated into a biomaterial design framework, could help achieve unprecedented functionality while minimizing the complexity of designs by identifying the most important material parameters and biological outputs. However, to avoid data explosions and to effectively match the information content of an assay with the goal of the experiment, material screens and bioassays must be arranged in specific ways. By borrowing methods to design experiments and workflows from the bioprocess engineering community, we outline a framework for the incorporation of next-generation bioassays into biomaterials design to effectively optimize function while minimizing complexity. This framework can inspire biomaterials designs that maximize functionality and translatability.

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Figure 1: Advances in biomaterials fabrication and bioassays.
Figure 2: General next-generation biomaterial design framework.


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The authors would like to acknowledge funding from National Institutes of Health (R01 DE013033; R01 DE013349) and the National Science Foundation funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers at Harvard University (DMR-1420570).

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Correspondence to David J. Mooney.

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Darnell, M., Mooney, D. Leveraging advances in biology to design biomaterials. Nature Mater 16, 1178–1185 (2017) doi:10.1038/nmat4991

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