Published: 21 March 2021
Bio-artificial kidneys require conveniently synthesized membranes providing signals that regulate renal epithelial cell function. Therefore, we aimed to find synthetic analogues for natural extracellular matrix (ECM) protein coatings traditionally used for epithelial cell culturing. Two biomaterial libraries, based on natural ECM-coatings and on synthetic supramolecular small molecule additives, were developed. The base material consisted of a bisurea (BU) containing polymer, providing supramolecular BU-additives to be incorporated via specific hydrogen bonding interactions. This system allows for a modular approach and therefore easy fractional factorial based screening. A natural coating on the BU-polymer material with basement membrane proteins, laminin and collagen IV, combined with catechols was shown to induce renal epithelial monolayer formation. Modification of the BU-polymer material with synthetic BU-modified ECM peptide additives did not result in monolayer formation. Unexpectedly, simple BU-catechol additives induced monolayer formation and presented similar levels of epithelial markers and apical transporter function as on the laminin, collagen IV and catechol natural coating. Importantly, when this BU-polymer material was processed into fibrous e-spun membranes the natural coating and the BU-catechol additive were shown to perfectly function. This study clearly indicates that complex natural ECM-coatings can be replaced by simple synthetic additives, and displays the potency of material libraries based on design of experiments in combination with modular, supramolecular chemistry.
Full Access Link: Biomaterials Science