In vitro epithelial models have drawbacks as they lack basement membranes (BMs), which control many cell responses. This project will unravel mechanisms by which BM controls epithelial cell responses and use this understanding to develop a synthetic BM. Initially, the BM-epithelial relationship is probed using established epithelial cells, commercially-available BMs/its components and state-of-the-art imaging. BM components controlling epithelial barrier are unraveled. Finally, self-assembling membranes as synthetic BM mimics are developed. These are based on self-assembling peptides with BM protein-derived ligands, informed by measuring cell response. Such systems could improve the quality of in vitro epithelial models, having 3Rs implications.
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