Historically, tissue engineering focused primarily on the delivery of soluble factors within relatively static scaffolds; yet, increasing evidence indicates that the native, dynamic three-dimensional microenvironment is important in guiding cellular behavior. Consequently, there has been a recent emphasis on increasing the biocomplexity of scaffolds to better mimic the natural extracellular matrix (ECM), including the incorporation of adhesion, degradation, and three-dimensional structures. This review aims to describe important features of the natural ECM and highlight how these features are now being incorporated into synthetic materials to control cellular behavior and tissue evolution towards the development of next generation tissue engineering strategies.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(12)70197-9