Glenn D Prestwich & Kevin E Healy
Regenerative medicine is now coming of age. Many attempts at cell therapy have failed to show significant efficacy, and the umbrella term ‘stem cell therapy’ is perceived in some quarters as hype or just expensive and unnecessary medical tourism. Here we present a short editorial in three parts. First, we examine the importance of using a semisynthetic extracellular matrix (ECM) mimetic, or sECM, to deliver and retain therapeutic cells at the site of administration. Second, we describe one approach in which biophysical and biochemical properties are tailored to each tissue type, which we call “design for optimal functionality.” Third, we describe an alternative approach to sECM design and implementation, called “design for simplicity,” in which a deconstructed, minimalist sECM is employed and biology is allowed to perform the customization in situ. We opine that an sECM, whether minimal or instructive, is an essential contributor to improve the outcomes of cell-based therapies.