Dr Ralf Richter visited the University of Glasgow last Tuesday and delivered a talk at our weekly Biomaterials Seminar. He presented his work over the years with extracellular matrix polysaccharides and soft biological hydrogels, trying to understand how they function in health and disease.
Extracellular matrix polysaccharides such as hyaluronan (HA) and other glycosaminoglycans are vital to the communication of cells in multicellular organisms, and are involved in many physiological and pathological processes including inflammation, fertilization, neuronal plasticity, tumor development and atherosclerosis. How these molecules work remains largely elusive because they do not obey classical structure-function relationships and are challenging to study with conventional structural and biological techniques. They lack a well-defined secondary structure and much of their functions rely on the formation of dynamic and disordered supramolecular assemblies (hydrogel-like materials).
To study these molecules and materials, Richter’s lab has developed in vitro model systems with tunable complexity, like in vitro reconstituted HA matrices, or self-assembly of purified biomolecules on solid supports. These model systems are amenable to quantitative analysis, and allow a better understanding of how the properties of the individual molecules and interactions translate into supramolecular assemblies with distinct physico-chemical properties, and how new phenomena emerge from multivalent interactions. For instance with this models the Richter Lab have also shown that matrix-bound chemokines can promote cell adhesion even in the absence of any established cell adhesion ligand, and potentiate cell adhesion when such ligands are presented.
Dr Richter is a Associate Professor at University of Leeds. He has been to several European countries in his career. From his MSc in Sweden, PhD in France in 2004, to research done in Germany and Spain. More information on his research interests and projects can be found here.
A doodle summary of the presentation by Dr Mathis Riehle can be found here.