The regeneration of large bone defects caused by trauma or disease remains a significant clinical problem. Although osteoinductive growth factors such as bone morphogenetic proteins have entered clinics, transplantation of autologous bone remains the gold standard to treat bone defects. The effective treatment of bone defects by protein therapeutics in humans requires quantities that exceed the physiological doses by several orders of magnitude. This not only results in very high treatment costs but also bears considerable risks for adverse side effects. These issues have motivated the development of biomaterials technologies allowing to better control biomolecule delivery from the solid phase. Here we review recent approaches to immobilize biomolecules by affinity binding or by covalent grafting to biomaterial matrices. We focus on biomaterials concepts that are inspired by extracellular matrix (ECM) biology and in particular the dynamic interaction of growth factors with the ECM. We highlight the value of synthetic, ECM-mimicking matrices for future technologies to study bone biology and develop the next generation of 'smart' implants.
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