Physical principles underlying structure, mechanics and dynamic re-organization of hyaluronan-rich matrices - from tissues to supramolecular models in experiment and theory
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The goal of this research project is to understand the physical principles that underlie the structure, mechanics and dynamic reorganization of hyaluronan-rich pericellular and extracellular matrices. Many cells produce a carbohydrate-rich cellular coat that plays a crucial role in the protection of the cell and which is also vital in structuring and communicating with the cell¿s environment. Important examples of such self-organizing supramolecular structures are the hyaluronan-rich pericellular matrices that are found for example around oocytes or endothelial cells. An outstanding feature is their dynamic self-organization into large, hydrated matrices. The supra-molecular level of organization that results from the assembly of glycans and proteins into soft, hydrated networks gives rise to new qualities and functions, which differ from those characterizing the individual constituents. The work involved in this project, based on a state of the art biophysical charactization tool box and polymer theory, contributed to understanding the relation between the organizational and dynamic features of such supramolecular assemblies, their physicochemical (in particular mechanical) properties, and the resulting biological functions.