PhD Position: Modulating protein absorption and cell response on electroresponsive scaffolds for bone cancer treatment

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The interaction of cancerous cells with their microenvironment is of crucial importace for the progression of primary tumors and must therefore be taken into account to develop suitable treatment approaches and cure strategies. Osteosarcoma is a rare but fatal disease that mainly affects long bones of the extremities of children and young adults. Studies suggest that its malignancy and metastatic tendency are directly related to the environmental signal perceived by neoplastic cells, including physical and biochemical ones. Among the most important physical stimuli present in the bone microenvironment are electromechanical stimuli, which are known to influence tissue repair and regeneration through their effect on bone-resident cells. With this in mind, in the present project we will analyze the effect of bioelectric signals analogous to those found in native bone on the behaviour of osteosarcoma cells. To this end, we will use materials that convert the mechanical forces acting on them into electrical signals (so-called piezoelectric materials), and will study the deposition of extracellular matrix elements and cells response in terms of proliferation, migration, differentiationand regulation of signalling pathways. As main outcomes, the
project will provide a new paradigm in osteosarcoma biology and enable the development of smart biomaterials for the replacement of diseased bone and reconstruction of functional limbs. Selected references:(1) Colloids Surfaces B Biointerfaces, 2015, 136, 46–55 (2), Nat.
Protoc., 2018, 13, 681–704, (3) ACS Appl. Bio Mater. (4) ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 12 (1), 191-199 2019, (5) IntJDevBiol 63: 1-8 (2019)