Cells in the human body change shape as they crawl, split, or cling to other surfaces, but while the scientific literature is filled with examples of how cell shapes shift in response to things they touch, little is known about the rules that govern these changes. And there has been no high-throughput way to systematically test different topologies against different types of cells to optimize the surface of something like a medical implant.
"We don't know the Braille codes of cells," said biologist Jan de Boer of the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
To address this gap in understanding, de Boer and his team of researchers have designed a systematic way to discover how a cell changes shape in response to a range of topographies. Their massive screening approach, which uses a platform called the TopoChip, tests thousands of surface patterns and catalogs how cells react to them, similar to the way pharmaceutical companies screen whole libraries of compounds in their search for promising drugs.
De Boer will describe his team's latest findings using the TopoChip, and how this work could influence the design of better surfaces for medical implants, at the AVS 60th International Symposium and Exhibition, to be held Oct. 27-Nov. 1, 2013, in Long Beach, Calif.
"Our unique approach is, we don't design a few surfaces we design thousands of them," de Boer said. So far they have selected 2,173 patterns out of their library of over 150 million unique topographies and can make more.
To develop their technique, the team wrote an algorithm that generates unique patterns in silicon: pillars just a few micrometers across with combinations of geometric shapes such as triangles, rectangles, and circles, spaced various distances apart from each other and with differences in size and orientation. The silicon patterns are used as molds to make imprints onto polymeric surfaces, which can be coated with a ceramic or metal when des
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American Institute of Physics