Synthetic gene networks as Blueprint for smart hydrogels

The rapidly emerging ability to design and construct synthetic gene networks in mammalian cells is based on the availability of mutually compatible genetic switches that enable the time-dependent induction of transgene expression in response to the dose of an externally applied stimulus. As these genetic switches are inherently compatible with mammalian cell physiology, they are as well predestined to control the functionality of cell-free synthetic devices within an overall physiologic background. In this chapter, we describe how a genetic switch that was originally designed for gene therapeutic studies can be applied in materials science to design and construct a biohybrid hydrogel that can be used to release a therapeutic growth factor in response to an externally applied stimulus for controlling cell fate and function in a time- and space-resolved manner. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.