Project Summary

Cell behaviour is influenced by the 3D environment sensed dynamically by the cell. This involves topo-chemical-mechanical stimuli, electromagnetic fields, gradients of chemo-attractants, haptotaxis. In order to mimic the natural environment of the cells in an organ, new concepts are needed to provide the controlled cell-cell contacts that are one of the key factors in cell behaviour. In addition, endocrine signalling has to be included in the system. This requires a spatial and dimensional control of the structures composing the environment in addition to a temporal control of the cues at the surface and in the solution.

Important questions related to the complexity of the cell environment emerged: what is the effect of combined cues, is there a synergy or a compensation between different cues; how can cell behaviour on a surface be reprogrammed by a dynamic change of the environment; are there correlations among different cues; how does the cell fate emerges from combined cues?

To address these questions experimentally, ICS envisions a bio-mimicking breadboard for quantitative studies of cell response to external stimuli in time and space. The breadboard is engineered with sensing devices for measuring cell signals and supplying stimuli, as well as actuating devices and structures for directing the motion of the different cell types. It includes patterned topo-chemical gradients, micro-electrodes to modulate E-field and electronically controlled drug delivery, cell signal transducers based on organic field effect devices, optical and local specific nano-probes, as well as microfluidics for re-programming chemical flows.

This complex and technologically challenging problem is addressed by a multidisciplirary consortium to achieve the ambitious objectives:

  • Mimicking the in-vivo environment by integration of different stimuli
  • Monitoring cell behaviour in-situ by a combination of local probes
  • Establishing the quantitative correlations between stimuli and cell behaviour.

Participating Researchers

Prof. Fabio Biscarini (Project Leader)
Istituto per lo studio dei Materiali Nanostrutturati (ISMN), National Research Council, Bologna, Italy

Prof. Pal Ormos (Principal Investigator)
Biological Research Centre, Institute of Biophysics, Szeged, Hungary

Prof. Henrique Leonel Gomes (Principal Investigator)
Universidade do Algave, Facultade de Ciencias e tecnologia, Faro, Portuga

Prof. Janos Vörös (Principal Investigator)
ETH and University of Zurich, Institut for Biomedical Engineering, Zürich, Switzerland

Prof. Ricardo Garcia (Associated Partner)
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Instituto de Microelectronica de Madrid, Madrid, Spain

Professor Peter Hinterdorfer (Associated Partner)
Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Institut of Biophysics, Linz, Austria