The dynamic binding interactions between cell surface receptors and local bioactive ligands serves as the principal mechanism by which cells survey their microenvironment and accordingly modulate their behaviors, such as proliferation, differentiation, migration, and suicide. Using conventional and non-conventional microfabrication approaches to engineer well-defined cellular microenvironments, we are examining how cells recognize and respond to adhesive interactions with the insoluble extracellular matrix (ECM). We will discuss our approaches to control the architecture and geometry of the adhesive interactions, as well as our resulting progress in identifying and elucidating the mechanisms by which cells sense the physical, chemical, and structural information carried within the ECM. By developing these approaches to engineering cell-surface interactions, we hope to improve the interconnect between artificial surfaces and living cells.

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