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Nat Mater. 2005 May;4(5):403-6. Epub 2005 Apr 17.

Fabrication of reconfigurable protein matrices by cracking.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


The interface between extracellular matrices and cells is a dynamic environment that is crucial for regulating important cellular processes such as signal transduction, growth, differentiation, motility and apoptosis. In vitro cellular studies and the development of new biomaterials would benefit from matrices that allow reversible modulation of the cell adhesive signals at a scale that is commensurate with individual adhesion complexes. Here, we describe the fabrication of substrates containing arrays of cracks in which cell-adhesive proteins are selectively adsorbed. The widths of the cracks (120-3,200 nm) are similar in size to individual adhesion complexes (typically 500-3,000 nm) and can be modulated by adjusting the mechanical strain applied to the substrate. Morphology of cells can be reversibly manipulated multiple times through in situ adjustment of crack widths and hence the amount of the cell-adhesive proteins accessible to the cell. These substrates provide a new tool for assessing cellular responses associated with exposure to matrix proteins.

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