Biomaterials play a pivotal role in field of tissue engineering. Biomimetic synthetic polymers have been created to elicit specific cellular functions and to direct cell-cell interactions both in implants that are initially cell-free, which may serve as matrices to conduct tissue regeneration, and in implants to support cell transplantation. Biomimetic approaches have been based on polymers endowed with bioadhesive receptor-binding peptides and mono- and oligosaccharides. These materials have been patterned in two-and three-dimensions to generate model multicellular tissue architectures, and this approach may be useful in future efforts to generate complex organizations of multiple cell types. Natural polymers have also played an important role in these efforts, and recombinant polymers that combine the beneficial aspects of natural polymers with many of the desirable features of synthetic polymers have been designed and produced. Biomaterials have been employed to conduct and accelerate otherwise naturally occurring phenomena, such as tissue regeneration in wound healing in the otherwise healthy subject; to induce cellular responses that might not be normally present, such as healing in a diseased subject or the generation of a new vascular bed to receive a subsequent cell transplant; and to block natural phenomena, such as the immune rejection of cell transplants from other species or the transmission of growth factor signals that stimulate scar formation. This review introduces the biomaterials and describes their application in the engineering of new tissues and the manipulation of tissue responses.
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