UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


Engineering approaches to understand and modulate the cell-matrix interface

Claudia Loebel, University of Michigan College of Engineering 


Title: Engineering approaches to understand and modulate the cell-matrix interface 


Keywords: hydrogels, extracellular matrix, organoids, lung progenitors, hyaluronic acid.



The native extracellular microenvironment is dynamic, as cells synthesize, assemble, and remodel their surroundings during tissue development, injury, and repair. Hydrogels have evolved as valuable tools to both study mechanisms of cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions (e.g., mechanobiology) and to guide desired cell behavior towards the development of new therapies (e.g., tissue repair/regeneration); however, the dynamic nature of the cell-ECM interface has been underappreciated. To address this, we are utilizing metabolic labeling techniques to visualize secreted matrix proteins to better understand how this nascent matrix influences cellular function and we are designing viscoelastic hydrogels that harness dynamic cell-hydrogel interactions.  We have used these techniques to better understand the evolution of matrix in modifying the cell-hydrogel interface in the engineering of tissues (e.g., cartilage), and to develop microstructured hydrogel platforms for the culture of lung organoids (i.e., alveolospheres) as in vitro models of tissue repair. Our evolving understanding of this interface will not only open up new avenues for understanding biological mechanisms, but will allow us to design better materials systems for biomedical therapies.


Claudia Loebel, M.D./Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Materials Science & Engineering and a Biological Sciences Scholar at the University of Michigan, US. She obtained her MD (2011) at the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany and PhD (2016) at ETH Zurich (Switzerland), and recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Professor Jason Burdick at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research involves the development of biomaterial platforms to characterize and uncover the role of nascent microenvironments on cell and tissue function. The applications of this research range from guiding stem/progenitor cell fate through material cues to developing engineered platforms for tissue repair and therapeutic treatment.

Claudia has been awarded the Silver Medal of ETH and postdoctoral fellowships through the Swiss National Science Foundation and IBSA Foundation. She was recently awarded the Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at NIH for her work on synthetic lung tissue models to probe mechanisms of alveolar epithelial cell dysfunction.