Before MAP, there was traditional bulk hydrogel – think of a slab of Jello (literally…gelatin is a type of hydrogel). Now to understand MAP, imagine a bunch of balls made out of Jello that are physically stuck to one another. Scale that down to the micron size and voilà! That’s the concept of MAP. By sticking microparticles together, we realized that we can create a long-lasting structure with wildly versatile properties, including a material that has inherent microporosity (hence the name), which cells seem to prefer. We often refer to MAP as a scaffold because – in the same way that a scaffold supports the construction of a building – the microparticles in MAP support the re-building of tissue during the wound healing process.
You’ll usually find us injecting MAP into something – but the reason behind the injection completely depends on the goal of the experiment. Generally our lab aims to promote wound healing. But ask us about the details, and each person in the lab will tell you a different story. Not everyone works on MAP, but when they do… you can read about how they use it by exploring our Current Projects.
At its most basic level, MAP can be used as a tissue mimic (or more specifically, an extracellular matrix mimic) that provides physical support in a wound to guide cells during the healing process. Load MAP with a drug, and it can be used as a delivery vehicle. Load it with stem cells, and now it serves to protect the cells from injury during the injection process. The versatility goes on… And these are just in vivo applications. We haven’t even covered how it can be used in vitro as a platform for culturing cells!