Prof Julien Gautrot
Bio-interfaces, the interfaces between proteins, cells or tissues and inert materials, are fascinating systems that play key roles in biological and biomedical applications. Research in the Gautrot lab focuses on the design of novel biomaterials and methodologies that allow the study of bio-interfaces and their control for applications in cell-based assays, bio-sensors and regenerative medicine. Our work in the field of biomaterials design is inspired by Nature's strategies to generate complexity and control function and properties. In particular, we are interested in novel synthetic tools and methodologies allowing the use of Nature's own building blocks, peptide sequences, to confer mechanical, chemical and biological properties to biomaterials. This approach, well suited for design, is appealing as it makes use of the inherent biological "wiring" that has evolved to control cell and tissue homeostasis: peptide sequences and proteins are the key components that shape biological tissues. In addition, we develop new micro- and nano-patterning techniques to recreate the geometric and hierarchical complexity encountered in cells and tissues (e.g. positioning of organelles, generation of cell polarity and mimicking of tissue architecture and morphogenesis). Key questions that these tools will allow us to address are: how do biological, mechanical and chemical properties of bio-materials (whether synthetic or of natural origin) cross-talk to control cell behaviour and in particular stem cell fate decision? How do cells remodel such materials and how does this impact on cell behaviour and tissue formation? Finally, what is the minimum set of rules or properties required to achieve a desired cell or tissue function?