We outline here a simple method to prepare polymeric surfaces of controlled surface topography on the micrometer scale, via assembly and arrest of microgel particles, for use in a range of biological applications to modify cell adhesion and spreading. In previous work by other groups, it has transpired that topography on the nanoscale is unlikely to be useful for this purpose, as roughness on this scale is often covered or coated by serum derived proteins during the early stages of cell adhesion and cells can easily bridge nanoscale roughness. Therefore, in our work, we have focused on roughness or topographic variations on the micrometer length scale. The basic idea is to modify the interactions between particles, thereby causing the microgel particles to phase separate into particle-dense and particle-dilute domains and to arrest these domains on the surface. The result is the creation of surfaces with controlled topography. By changing the particle size, it is possible to alter the size of the pores formed and their distribution in the film. Preliminary results show that the system can readily be arrested into a homologous series of such structures (formed from microgel particles of the same size and same chemical structure) with biological implications. At the extremes of this series, large phenotypic differences are observed between cells, ranging (at one end) from localization of the cells in the pores to (at the other end) cells that avoid such localization, and remain extended, growing along the ridges between the pores. This constitutes a sort of cell localization transition on a surface with identical chemical components, where only the morphology has been adjusted.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Physical Chemistry