Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


Recommended prerequisites are:

7.03 Genetics

7.05 General Biochemistry

7.06 Cell Biology

7.28 Molecular Biology

Course Description

Biomaterials are substances that have been designed to direct the course of any therapeutic or diagnostic procedure by controlling interactions with biological systems. A large toolbox of non-biological materials has been engineered to study cell behavior at the cell-material interface. In this course, we will examine how this interface can be leveraged to study cellular systems and generate novel therapeutics. A critical evaluation of the primary research literature will be used to frame discussions about the interactions between cells and biomaterials. In particular, we will discuss how cell behavior can be altered by controlling biochemical and biophysical cues of substrate materials, how new organs and tissues can be produced by the use of structured scaffolds that direct cells into organized forms, and how specific patterning of materials can enable biological processes to be studied and altered at the single-cell level. We will also consider the applications at patterned cell-material interfaces to build artificial systems, such as organs-on-a-chip, which can be used to perform preclinical tests for the activity and toxicity of drug candidates. Also, we will discuss the combination of nonbiological materials with genetic material (DNA and RNA), which can be a robust approach to modifying gene expression at the level of cells, tissues, or organs. We hope that your introduction to the cell-materials interface will inspire you to work at the intersection of biology and engineering and that you will help pioneer new and improved strategies to engineer this interface for functional applications.


For each class, students will be assigned to read two papers. Students should formulate two questions per paper and send them by email to the instructors the night before each class. During each session, we will discuss as a group the articles as well as address the emailed questions, with emphasis placed on the experimental design, the use of control experiments, the details of experimental methodology, and the interpretation of experimental data. At the end of each session, the instructors will briefly introduce the papers for the next week.

Course Objectives

The main objectives of this course are to introduce students to the primary scientific literature and the process of reading research publications, and expose students to the rapidly developing field of cell-instructive biomaterials. Course objectives will be met through class discussions and take-home / in-class assignments. By the end of the semester students should be able to:

  • Read, comprehend, critically analyze, and integrate knowledge concerning primary research articles.
  • Understand how to search for primary research articles relevant to the field of biomaterials using online tools (PubMed, Google Scholar, Scopus, MIT Library eJournals, etc.).
  • Orally present papers from the primary scientific literature and engage classmates in discussion.
  • Define a cell-instructive biomaterial (in the context of this class).
  • Identify several techniques scientists use in the design of cell-instructive biomaterials.


Grading for this course is pass / fail and will depend on student attendance, preparedness, participation in class discussions, and completion of the required assignments.


1 Introduction to the Course  
2 Mechanobiology of Materials  
3 Controlling Cell Morphology  
4 Altering Gene Expression  
5 Biomimetic Signaling  
6 Targeting with Nanoparticles Distribute Written Assignment
7 Materials for Vaccination Written Assignment Due
8 Engineering Vascular Structure Hand out list of papers for oral presentations
9 Field Trip Visit to Langer Research Laboratory
10 Cell-like Materials Finalize choice of paper for final presentation
11 Repairing the nervous system  
12 Final Class Oral Presentations