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PhD Project: Stimuli responsive nanocellulose based matrices for differentiating cell growth

Starting: June 2014


Stem cells are a natural part of the human body’s regenerative processes, and have the capability to self-renew and to differentiate into many different types of tissue, depending on their environment.

In particular, the mechanical properties of a cell’s substrate (e.g. stiffness and texture) have an important impact on proliferation, migration, apoptosis, and differentiation during cell growth.


Meanwhile, nanocellulose have emerged as the next-generation biorefinery high added value product, and over the last decade, the interest in these new materials has exponentially increased due to the discovery of their outstanding properties. Recent studies in particular, have evidenced the stimuli responsive properties of nanocellulose and the possibility of using them for the preparation of “smart” polymers with adjustable features.

Confocal microscope image of human fetal lung fibroblast-like cells (MRC-5)

grown on a poly(vinyl alcohol)/CNC (16 wt. %) substrate after 5 days of incubation.

This project aims at developing a novel and innovative nanocellulose based substrate system, with stimuli-responsive tunable mechanical properties, i.e. adaptive stiffness and substructure, able to orient the growth of stem cells on its surface.

One of the key challenge of the project lies in the design of a substrate material which mechanical properties can be adjusted using an external stimuli that has to be harmless towards living cells.

This PhD project involves a collaboration between the LGP2 (Pulp and Paper Sciences) and the Adolphe Merckle Institute (Fribourg, Switzerland).


PI: Johan Foster (visitor); Co-PIJulien Bras; PhD Student: Megan Smyth (see her CV)


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