In this review, we highlight the importance of nanostructure of cellulose-based biomaterials to allow cellular adhesion, the contribution of nanostructure to macroscale mechanical properties, and several key applications of these materials for fundamental scientific research and biomedical engineering. Different features on the nanoscale can have macroscale impacts on tissue function. Cellulose is a diverse material with tunable properties and is a promising platform for biomaterial development and tissue engineering. Cellulose-based biomaterials offer some important advantages over conventional synthetic materials. Here we provide an up-to-date summary of the status of the field of cellulose-based biomaterials in the context of bottom-up approaches for tissue engineering. We anticipate that cellulose-based material research will continue to expand because of the diversity and versatility of biochemical and biophysical characteristics highlighted in this review.