Laura Rijns

PhD student

Project description

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a dynamic, multicomponent network that provides both structural support and biochemical information to epithelial cells during kidney development. To better understand the role of ECM ligands towards their receptors, Matrigel is traditionally used as the state-of-the-art basement membrane for cell culturing. However, Matrigel lacks the ability to uncouple mechanical and chemical properties, is of pathogenic origin and suffers from batch-to-batch variations. Hence, there is an urgent need to create a superior alternative to Matrigel. A suitable approach might be to recapitulate all facets of the ECM in a modular, synthetic manner, such that the influence of distinct microenvironment components on renal cells can be assessed individually. Aqueous synthetic supramolecular assemblies have great potential for this because of their inherent dynamicity. Additionally, the monomeric building blocks could be functionalized with bioactive cues to easily introduce function using a modular approach. In particular, we will develop novel bioactive, supramolecular hydrogels based on the triple amide hydrogen bonding benzene-1,3,5-tricarboxamide (BTA) and the self-complementary quadruple hydrogen bonding ureido-pyrimidinone (UPy) motif, which could interfere in nephrogenesis. Eventually, our results will lead to better understanding of kidney development and the biomaterial – cell interaction.


Techniques: rheology, FRAP, cell culture, immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, RT-qPCR, Western blot
Keywords: kidney regeneration, supramolecular chemistry, hydrogels, BTA, UPy, cell-material interaction