Engineering of synthetic cellular microenvironments: Implications for immunity

Shimrit Adutler-Lieber, Irina Zaretsky, Ilia Platzman, Janosch Deeg, Nir Friedman, Joachim P. Spatz, Benjamin Geiger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


In this article, we discuss novel synthetic approaches for studying the interactions of cells with their microenvironment. Notably, critical cellular processes such as growth, differentiation, migration, and fate determination, are tightly regulated by interactions with neighboring cells, and the surrounding extracellular matrix. Given the huge complexity of natural cellular environments, and their rich molecular and physical diversity, the mission of understanding "environmental signaling" at a molecular-mechanistic level appears to be extremely challenging. To meet these challenges, attempts have been made in recent years to design synthetic matrices with defined chemical and physical properties, which, artificial though they may be, could reveal basic "design principles" underlying the physiological processes. Here, we summarize recent developments in the characterization of the chemical and physical properties of cell sensing and adhesion, as well as the design and use of engineered, micro- to nanoscale patterned and confined environments, for systematic, comprehensive modulation of the cells' environment. The power of these biomimetic surfaces to highlight environmental signaling events in cells, and in immune cells in particular, will be discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)100-111
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Autoimmunity
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The studies conducted in our laboratories, described herein, were supported by the European Union Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no NMP4-LA-1009-229289 , NanoII (to BG, JPS, and NF), an ERC Advanced Grant under grant agreement no 294852-SynAd (to BG and JPS), and by the Israel Science Foundation , grant no. 1254/11 (to NF). This work is also part of the excellence cluster CellNetwork at the University of Heidelberg. We acknowledge the support of the Max Planck Society and the Weizmann Institute of Science , and the support of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (to IP). The authors are grateful to Barbara Morgenstern for her expert help in the style editing of this manuscript. BG is the incumbent of the Erwin Neter Professorial Chair in Cell and Tumor Biology. JPS is the Weston Visiting Professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science. NF is the incumbent of the Pauline Recanati Career Development Chair of Immunology.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Adhesion signaling
  • Antigen presentation
  • Cell adhesion
  • Immune niche
  • Mechanobiology
  • Synthetic biology


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