Cell transplantation holds immense potential for reversing diseases that are currently incurable and for regenerating tissues. However, poor cell survival, cell aggregation and lack of cell integration into the host tissue constitute major challenges for the clinical translation of cell transplantation approaches. Biomaterials can influence cell behaviour in vitro and in vivo. The mechanical and biochemical properties of biomaterials can be tailored to affect cell survival, differentiation and migration. Therefore, the integration of advanced material design with stem cell biology may hold the key to improving the efficacy of cell transplantation. In this Review, we discuss biomaterial design strategies for their potential to influence the fate of transplanted cells and to manipulate the host microenvironment. We examine how biomaterial properties can be modulated to improve transplanted cell survival, differentiation and cell engraftment and how the host tissue can be manipulated for cell transplantation by inducing plasticity and vascularization. Finally, we emphasize the importance of the host immune cells for tissue repair and cell transplantation and discuss strategies to tune the immune response through modulating the mechanical properties, architecture, chemistry and functionalization of biomaterials.
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The authors are grateful for funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Discovery Grant to M.S.S., NSERC CREATE in M3 scholarship to N.M.), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Foundation Grant to M.S.S.), the Canada First Research Excellence Fund for Medicine by Design at the University of Toronto (to M.S.S.) and the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (to M.S.S.). The authors thank members of the Shoichet laboratory for thoughtful review of this manuscript.
The authors declare no competing interests but acknowledge a composition of matter patent on HAMC cell delivery.
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