The extracellular matrix (ECM) is the non-cellular component present within all tissues and organs, and provides not only essential physical scaffolding for the cellular constituents but also initiates crucial biochemical and biomechanical cues that are required for tissue morphogenesis, differentiation and homeostasis. The importance of the ECM is vividly illustrated by the wide range of syndromes, which can be anything from minor to severe, that arise from genetic abnormalities in ECM proteins. Although, fundamentally, the ECM is composed of water, proteins and polysaccharides, each tissue has an ECM with a unique composition and topology that is generated during tissue development through a dynamic and reciprocal, biochemical and biophysical dialogue between the various cellular components (e.g. epithelial, fibroblast, adipocyte, endothelial elements) and the evolving cellular and protein microenvironment. Indeed, the physical, topological, and biochemical composition of the ECM is not only tissue-specific, but is also markedly heterogeneous.