Integrins are cell surface receptors that allow cells, including stem cells, to interact with their environment. One of their functions is to transmit signals about the environment to stem cells. There are many types of integrins, which bind to extracellular proteins found in a cell’s environment. Our group has been using chemistry to isolate different novel small molecules that can bind specifically to the different integrins. Our goal is to incorporate these novel small molecules into hydrogels, which we are using as 3 dimensional homes to grow stem cells within the incubator. The ultimate plan is to use these same hydrogels to transfer the stem cells to patients with a variety of ailments, such as chronic ulcers.
Over the past year we have helped to develop a variety of hydrogels that can grow stem cells. We have also isolated a variety of novel small molecules specific to different integrin molecules.