Major funding partners
The proposed Max Planck Queensland Centre (MPQC) for the Materials Science of Extracellular Matrices is a joint initiative of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science (MPG) and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), including associate members from a number of national and international institutions. Starting in 2022, the Centre is proposed for an initial 5-year period, and to be extended following an evaluation by a further 5 years to complete the full Centre lifetime (10 years). The proposal arises from more than 10 years of interdisciplinary collaborations between the German-based groups of Professor Peter Fratzl (Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, MPICI, in Potsdam), Professor Metin Sitti (Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, MPIIS, in Stuttgart), with groups in Australia, namely, with Distinguished Professor Hutmacher (QUT, Brisbane), and Professor Shaun Collin (La Trobe University, Melbourne).
MPQC envisions two symbiotic aims:
- A world-leading interdisciplinary basic and applied research program in the understanding of extracellular matrices (ECMs) from a materials science viewpoint in terms of their adaptive multifunctional properties.
- Unlocking and mentoring the potential of the upcoming 21st century leaders in bioengineering which will deliver significant scientific, societal and economic impact over this decade and into the distant future.
The formation and remodeling of extracellular matrices (ECMs) is a central process in the life of humans, animals and plants, whereby the plant cell wall is viewed to play the role of ECM in plants. While traditionally cells are considered the active parts of tissues since they proliferate as well as synthesize and degrade ECM, a vast amount of information is actually known to be stored in ECMs. Indeed, complex functions, such as seed dissemination are relegated by plants directly to dead tissue parts, where the cell walls provide the necessary activity, e.g. just fuelled by humidity changes in the environment. Decellularized organs preserve information on the organ function, so that cells freshly settling in the matrix are instructed on how to reconstitute the tissue. This puts ECMs in an intermediate position between a living system and a passive material. Therefore, the planned fundamental research of ECMs will not only lead to new knowledge, but will also allow creating active materials and matter, processes, and ultimately products.
The MPQC will facilitate the development of cognate scientific areas such as soft robotics, responsive and adaptive materials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, as well as cancer research, and bring internationally-leading teams together with a coherent mission and shared aspirations. Bioinspired engineering is a 21st century approach to science and innovation that intends to find sustainable solutions to challenges of civilization that emulate design patterns and strategies that have been long established by Nature. The MPQC is a joint undertaking of leading academics, scientists, engineers and research scholars from Germany and Australia to pioneer an unprecedented approach that seeks to discover, understand and translate an understudied strategic frontier area. Cells assemble to organs in plants and animals and fulfill multiscale functions whereby extracellular matrices (ECMs) play an essential role. ECMs act as carriers of biophysical and biochemical information and provide mechanical stability and support for the cells to fulfil their biological function. From an engineering viewpoint, ECMs are also materials with exquisite properties that confer the capabilities of adaptation, self-repair and even information processing and storage. With this perspective, the MPQC will adopt and derive bioinspired principles for materials with new types of properties for a more sustainable materials economy.