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When Biomaterials Meet Biophysics



Speakers: from A to Z.


Balland, Martial.

Laboratory of Cell Mechanics, Grenoble Alpes University. Grenoble, France.

The most remarkable aspect of living tissues is their ability to maintain mechanical integrity as they are submitted to external forces, such as those implicated in tissue remodeling (cell intercalation, migration or polarization).

These phenomena have been largely studied by Dr. Balland and his research group, aiming to analyze the cell integrity in relation with the tissue homeostasis. This has been assessed by controlling processes related to cell adhesion, morphology and contractility. Currently, Dr. Balland is developing a combination of micropatterned substrates, complemented with optogenetics and traction force microscopy assays. These new techniques have been performed with the purpose to understand how mechanical forces are sensed and generated by eukaryotic cells.

During the 1st International Symposium When Biomaterials meet Biophysics, Dr. Balland will discuss how mechanical forces driving start of migration, and their relation with several pathologies, such as the beginning of metastasis, in cancer diseases.

Relevant publications

  • Alkasalias T., et al., (2017). RhoA knockout fibroblasts lose tumor-inhibitory capacity in vitro and promote tumor growth in vivo. PNAS 114:E1413-E1421
  • De Mets R., et al., (2016). Fast and robust fabrication of reusable molds for hydrogel micro-patterning. Biomaterials Science, 4:1630-1637
  • Mandal K., et al., (2014). Cell dipole behaviour revealed by ECM sub-cellular geometry. Nat. Communications. 5: 5749.
  • Lafaurie-Janvore J., et al., (2013). ESCRT-III Assembly and Cytokinetic Abscission Are Induced by Tension Release in the Intercellular Bridge. 6127:1625-1629.


Cavalcanti-Adam, Elisabetta Ada.

Max-Planck-Institute for Medical Research. Heidelberg, Germany.

In regenerative medicine, the integration of materials within tissue and the interface material surfaces are key processes, which can determine the successful outcome.

The development of new materials for tissue engineering is benefiting from the growing body. In particular when molecular and physical cues tangled within the extracellular environment are decoded. In fact, such information has been used in the design of bio-inspired materials and scaffolds.

Thus, the research performed by Dr. Cavalcanti-Adam has been fostered in recapitulating the extracellular environment on its simplified forms, using basic chemistry to direct cell responses. In her work, Dr. Cavalcanti-Adam applies physico-chemical concepts and modern nano-surface knowledge to address different aspects of cell responses, tuning bio-inspired surfaces and materials in highly engineered platforms for wound healing and tissue repair.

During the last years, Dr. Cavalcanit-Adam and her team have been studying the interaction of cells with such substrates, as well as the nanoscale spacing of single extracellular ligands involved on cell adhesion, with the aim to improve cell adhesion, migration and further mechanotransduction.

To achieve this, Dr. Cavalcanti-Adam has developed novel strategies to immobilize growth factors on materials. Using different physical-chemistry techniques, such as block copolymer micellar nanolithography (BCML), soft lithography, microcontact printing or grafting of self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) for protein immobilization, Dr. Cavalcanti-Adam can direct the fate of stem cells.

During the 1st International Symposium When Biomaterials meet Biophysics, Dr. Cavalcanti-Adam will show innovative results on surface chemistry and measurement of traction force, with the purpose to determine the activity of molecular sensors for tension, and to understand the role of cellular forces during adhesion.

Relevant publications

  • Kapp TG., et al., (2017). A Comprehensive Evaluation of the Activity and Selectivity Profile of Ligands for RGD-binding Integrins. Scientific Reports. 7: 39805.
  • Schaufler V., et al., (2016). Selective binding and lateral clustering of α 5β1 and αvβ3 integrins: Unraveling the spatial requirements for cell spreading and focal adhesion assembly. Cell Adhesion & Migration. 10: 505-515.
  • Guasch J., et al., (2015). Segregation versus co-localization: orthogonally functionalized binary micropatterned substrates regulate the molecular distribution in focal adhesions. Advanced Materials. 27: 3737-3747.
  • Schwab E., et al., (2015). Nanoscale control of surface immobilized BMP-2: toward a quantitative assessment of BMP-mediated signaling events. Nano Letters. 15: 1526-1534.


Detsch, Rainer.

Institute of Biomaterials, Erlangen-Nürnberg University. Erlangen, Germany

Dr. Rainer Detsch has wide experience in the field of biomaterials. His research topics are mostly focused on in vitro osteoclastogenesis, osteogenesis and remodeling processes in contact with synthetic bone by biofabrication.

In this context, during the 1st International Symposium When Biomaterials meet Biophysics Dr. Detsch will show new methods of biofabrication, directed to enhance stem cell differentiation on hydrogels, by co-culturing different cell populations. Furthermore, he will discuss straightforward strategies to generate hard and soft tissue-like matrices by additive manufacturing, discussing how biophysical parameters can guide cell behavior in such 3D structures.

Relevant publications

  • Zehnder T., et al., (2017). Biofabrication of a co-culture system in an osteoid-like hydrogel matrix. Biofabrication. In the press.
  • Niklaus L., et al., (2017). Micropatterned Down-Converting Coating for White Bio-Hybrid Light-Emitting Diodes. Advanced Functional Materials. In the press.
  • Silva R., et al., (2016). Soft-matrices based on silk fibroin and alginate for tissue engineering. International journal of biological macromolecules 93: 1420-1431.
  • Ivanovska J., et al., (2016). Biofabrication of 3D alginate-based hydrogel for cancer research: comparison of cell spreading, viability, and adhesion characteristics of colorectal HCT116 tumor cells. Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods. 22: 708-715.


Egaña, Tomás.

Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Santiago, Chile.

The extreme dependency to external oxygen supply observed in several human pathologies, represents a serious clinical issue, mostly when these diseases lead acute low oxygen tension. Ischemia reperfusion injuries, hemorrhage, stroke and fibrosis are only few of such conditions. Additionally, chronic hypoxia also plays a key role in tumor survival as well as in the development of other pathological conditions such as non-healing chronic wounds and peripheral artery disease.

In order to circumvent the limitation of oxygen self-production in animals, and to improve tissue oxygenation, the main focus the research performed by Dr. Egaña is engineer symbiotic scaffolds, with the purpose to generate photosynthetic plant-vertebrate chimeric organisms (named plantebrates).

In this context, Dr. Egana and his team have created the first generation of photosynthetic human-based materials (i.e. artificial plant-human symbiotic skin) with the ability to produce and release oxygen upon light stimulation. The safety and efficacy of such materials have been proved in vitro and in vivo.

Furthermore, and with the purpose to provide other therapeutic molecules in addition to oxygen, Dr. Egana has been genetically engineering green microalgae to generate skin-like materials capable to release human recombinant therapeutic proteins on the wounded area. The success of these photosynthetic biomaterials may represent a new hope in regenerative medicine, and a revolutionary strategy to design and perform new scaffolds for biomedical purposes.

These breakthrough findings will be presented at the 1st International Symposium When Biomaterials meet Biophysics by Dr. Egaña.

 Relevant publications

  • Chavez M., et al., (2016). Towards autotrophic tissue engineering: Photosynthetic gene therapy for regeneration. Biomaterials. 75: 25-36
  • Alvarez M., et al., (2015). Generation of Viable Plant-Vertebrate Chimeras. PLoS ONE. 10: e0130295
  • Schenck T., et al., (2015). Photosynthetic biomaterials: A pathway towards autotrophic tissue engineering. Acta biomaterialia. 15: 39-47.
  • Hopfner U., et al., (2014). Development of photosynthetic biomaterials for in vitro tissue engineering. Acta biomaterialia. 10: 2712-2717.


Fabry, Ben.

Center for Medical Physics and Technology. Erlangen-Nürnberg University. Erlangen, Germany

Dr. Fabry has a large experience on the field of Biophysics. He leads the Center for Medical Physics and Technology, at the Erlangen-Nürnberg University. His group has been studying the mechanical properties of cells, tissues and soft scaffolds. The aim of this research is to determine mechanical response of cells in complexes environments. Besides, he is interested in understanding how cells interact with their extracellular matrix, mostly during cell transmigration, invasion, adhesion, contraction, and division.

To address these questions, Dr. Fabry’s lab collaborates with other research groups worldwide, with the purpose to develop new technologies drawing from various fields, including soft matter physics, molecular cell biology, biochemistry, engineering, and applied mathematics.

During the 1st International Symposium When Biomaterials meet Biophysics, Dr. Fabry will talk about self-organization of tissues, and the development of in vitro systems to asses this, including new analytical tools developed to this purposes, and the biotechnological/biomedical application of his findings.

Relevant publications

  • Chronopoulos A., et al., (2016). ATRA mechanically reprograms pancreatic stellate cells to suppress matrix remodelling and inhibit cancer cell invasion. Nat Commun. 7:12630.
  • Bonakdar N., et al., (2016). Mechanical plasticity of cells. Nat Mater. 15: 1090-1094.
  • Steinwachs J, et al., (2016). Three-dimensional force microscopy of cells in biopolymer networks. Nat Meth. 13:171-176.
  • Bartsch T.F., et al., (2016). Nanoscopic imaging of thick heterogeneous soft-matter structures in aqueous solution. Nat Commun. 7:12729.


Hardy, John.

Chemistry & Materials Science Institute, Lancaster University. Lancaster, United Kingdom.

Electromagnetic fields play important roles in a multitude of biological processes, including protein distribution, gene expression, and, at tissue scale, wound healing and neuronal activity. This simple concept has inspired further researchers to develop electrically conducting devices for biomedical applications, including biosensors, drug delivery devices, and cardiac/neural electrodes, among others, which in most of the cases are already FDA. This has inspired the development of electrically conducting devices for long-term biomedical applications.

However, traditional materials used for such applications are metals and alloys have mechanical properties that are far from those of the body, and may yield an immune response leading the encapsulation of such devices. Thus, organic electronic polymers are a class of electroactive materials currently being investigated for a wide variety of technical and biomedical applications, and which is the research field of Dr. Hardy.

The presentation offered by Dr. Hardy at the 1st International Symposium When Biomaterials meet Biophysics, is focused on the development of conducting polymer (CP)-based biomaterials for biomedical applications, giving an overview of his groups most recent research, such as electro-responsive drug and gene delivery systems, or cell sensitive electro-conductive scaffolds for tissue engineering.

Relevant publications

  • Hardy J.G., et al., (2016). Responsive biomaterials: advances in materials based on shape-memory polymers. Advanced Materials. 28: 5717-5724
  • Hardy J.G., et al., (2016). Hydrogel-forming microneedle arrays made from light-responsive materials for on-demand transdermal drug delivery. Molecular Pharmaceutics. 3: 907-914.
  • Hardy J.G., et al., (2016). Organic electronic materials for gene delivery. Engineering of nanobiomaterials. Elsevier. p. 119-144.
  • Spearman B., et al., (2015). Conductive interpenetrating networks of polypyrrole and polycaprolactone encourage electrophysiological development of cardiac cells. Acta Biomaterialia. 28:109-120.


Lautenschläger, Franziska.

Laboratory of Experimental Physic, Saarland University. Saarbrücken, Germany

Jr. Prof. Franziska Lautenschläger has been specializing on cytoskeletal dynamics in living cells.

She and her team are particularly interested in actin and intermediate filaments (i.e. vimentin). She has been investigating how cells are behaving in presence of different stimuli and external environments, assessing adhesion, stiffness or other biomechanical analysis within confined surroundings.

In addition, Dr. Lautenschläger is also interested in the question how the internal arrangement of the cytoskeleton as such is influencing the cellular behavior, such as migration, polarization or its capacity to create forces and how these cytoskeletal filaments behave under large strain of its cells and impact cellular mechanics, which will be the topic of her presentation At the 1st International Symposium When Biomaterials meet Biophysics.

Relevant publications

  • Raab M., et al., (2016). ESCRT III repairs nuclear envelope ruptures during cell migration to limit DNA damage and cell death. Science. 352:359-62.
  • Chan CJ., et al., (2015). Myosin II Activity softens cells in suspension. Biophysical Journal. 108: 1856-1869.
  • Maiuri P., et al., (2015). Actin Flows Mediate a Universal Coupling between Cell Speed and Cell Persistence. Cell. 161: 374-386
  • Liu Y., et al., (2015). Confinement in a non-adhesive environment induces fast amoeboid migration of slow mesenchymal cells. Cell. 160: 659-672.


Palmisano, Ralf.

Optical Image Centre Erlangen

Sponsored talk „Imaging across scales: Imaging from the molecule to the whole animal“


Riehle, Matthies.

Centre for Cell Engineering, Glasgow University. Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Dr. Riehle focuses his current research on developing acoustic tweezers, with the objective to manipulate and sort cells in two and three dimensions.

Using this system, it was possible to acoustically align Schwann cells in vitro, guiding them to enhance nerves repair. This research has been performed on synthetic scaffolds (nerve guiding tube), filled with adipose derived Schwann cells. The final purpose of this experimental design is the creation of a new testing platform for in vivo assays. The effectiveness of these methods is based on combining acoustic tweezer and topographic properties of the nerve repair tube.

During the 1st International Symposium When Biomaterials meet Biophysics, Dr. Riehle will discuss how this will aid our aim to develop a replacement for autologous nerve transplant, and how acoustic systems can induce biological responses, by generating very low forces (in the range of pN) in two and three dimensions.

 Relevant publications

  • Nikukar, H. et al., (2016). Production of nanoscale vibration for stimulation of human mesenchymal stem cells. Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, 12: 1478-1488.
  • Andrade M., et al., (2016). (2016) Contactless acoustic manipulation and sorting of particles by dynamic acoustic fields. IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control, 63: 1593-1600.
  • Skotis, G.D. et al., (2015). Dynamic acoustic field activated cell separation (DAFACS). Lab on a Chip. 3: 802-810.
  • Gesellchen, F., et al., (2014). Cell patterning with a heptagon acoustic tweezer: application in neurite guidance. Lab on a Chip. 14: 2266-2275.


Smith, Ana-Suncana.

Institut für Theoretische Physik, Erlangen-Nürnberg University. Erlangen, Germany

The research performed by Dr. Smith and her team is oriented to identify when and how “soft” matters for the living organisms. Their ultimate goal is providing the same depth for the understanding of biological processes as those studied in physics. Therefore, Dr. Smith is encouraged to adapt and develop new concepts and approaches from theoretical physics, combining them with a variety of simulation techniques and experiments, in order to study a wide range of problems found in soft matter, statistical physics and biophysics.

During the 1st International Symposium When Biomaterials meet Biophysics Dr. Smith is willing to show her results, refereed to the modulation of cellular shape and function with respect to cell size within tissues, which is the focus of her current research. Furthermore, during this symposium Dr. Smith discusses the phenomena of cell migration and biomechanical mechanism contributing to this.

Relevant publications

  • Pickl K., et al., (2017). Lattice Boltzmann simulations of the bead-spring microswimmer with a responsive stroke-from an individual to swarms. Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter. 29: 124001.
  • AS Smith (2016). Biophysics: Alive and twitching. Nature Physics 12: 378-379.
  • Pande J., & Smith AS. (2015). Forces and shapes as determinants of micro-swimming: effect on synchronisation and the utilisation of drag. Soft Matter. 11: 2364-2371.
  • Fenz S., et al., (2016). Membrane Mediated Cooperativity Facilitates Cadherin Clustering in Model Membranes. Biophysical Journal. 110: 190a.


Théry, Manuel.

Laboratory of Cell Morphology, CEA Research Institute. Paris, France.

The research carried out by Dr. Théry is aimed to identify the principles of the cellular self-organization. According to his studies, the self-organization can manifest in a reproducible, and therefore understandable way, only in response to defined geometrical cues.

Thus, to study the geometrical and mechanical rules underlying cell internal self-organization, he has been developing new microfabrication techniques, in order to control and manipulate the spatial and topographical conditions that the cytoskeleton networks are sensitive to.

These technics allow Dr. Théry and his team to analyze and quantify actin and microtubule networks in cells-free patterns, as well as measuring traction forces at single-cell scale.

Considering that the complexity of the intra-cellular milieu may partially hinder the use of traditional methods to study the hierarchy of intracellular processes, Dr. Théry is encouraged to investigate alternative strategies for analyzing the cytoskeleton self-organization in vitro. This challenge has been addressed by controlling the biochemical conditions of protein-protein interaction, using individual cytoskeleton component, as well as single-cell, and cell-cell interactions.

During the 1st International Symposium When Biomaterials meet Biophysics, Dr. Théry will talk about tuning of cellular forces with regards to cell size, which is the focus of his current research. During his presentation, he will discuss the importance of friction process, inherent to soft matter physics, but at the micro-scale, restricting the cell size of cells by limiting the exertion of biological forces.

Relevant publications

  • Aumeier C., et al., (2016). Self-repair promotes microtubule rescue. Nat Cell Biology, 18:1054-64.
  • Sun Z, et al., (2016). Kank2 activates talin, reduces force transduction across integrins and induces central adhesion formation. Nat Cell Biology, 18:941-5.
  • Schaedel L., et al., (2015). Microtubules self-repair in response to mechanical stress. Nature  Materials. 14, 1156-1163
  • Farina F., et al., (2015). The centrosome is an actin-organizing center. Nat Cell Biology, 18:65-75.


Van Oosterwyck, Hans.

Dep. of Mechanical Engineering and Biomechanics, KU Leuven University, Belgium.

The research performed by Dr. Van Oosterwyck focuses on the importance of cell-matrix mechanical interactions and mass transport for blood vessel formation (angiogenesis) and its role in tissue regeneration.

His group is strongly interdisciplinary, and combines computational and experimental work. Computational models relate to the use of mesh-based and meshless (particle-based, agent-based), methods and study cell-matrix mechanics and angiogenesis, and its relation to tissue regeneration.

At the 1st International Symposium When Biomaterials meet Biophysics, Dr. Van Oosterwyck will show his experimental results on quantification of cell-matrix mechanics and solute transport, among others. These have been obtained after computational image analysis.

Challenges related to integrating computational and experimental data, in order to generate novel understanding on cell-matrix mechanics and angiogenesis, will be the main topic to discuss during the presentation prepared by Dr. Van Oosterwyck.

Relevant publications

  • Leonidakis K., et al., (2017). Fibrin structural and diffusional analysis suggests that fibers are permeable to solute transport. Acta Biomaterialia. 47: 25-39
  • Bove H., et al., (2016). Biocompatible Label-Free Detection of Carbon Black Particles by Femtosecond Pulsed Laser Microscopy. Nano Letters. 16: 3173-3178.
  • Van Oosterwyck H. (2015). Computational mechanobiology: may the force be with you. Journal of Mathematical Biology. 70: 1323-1326.
  • Lambrechts D. et al., (2014). Reporter cell activity within hydrogel constructs quantified from oxygen-independent bioluminescence. Biomaterials. 35: 8065-8077.