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Biomaterials. 2005 Oct;26(29):5917-25.

An inverted microcontact printing method on topographically structured polystyrene chips for arrayed micro-3-D culturing of single cells.

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  • 1Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) Zurich, Department of Materials, Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology, BioInterfaceGroup, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland.


With the goal to investigate the relation of shape and function of single cells or clusters of cells in a 3-dimensional (3-D) microenvironment, we present a novel platform technology to create arrays of microwells on polystyrene (PS) chips for hosting cells in a local microenvironment characterized by controlled shape and surface chemistry. The micro-3-D cell culturing combines 2-dimensional chemical patterning with topographical microstructuring presenting to the cells a local 3-D host structure. Microwells of controlled dimensions were produced by a two-step replication process, based on standard microfabrication of Si, replica molding into poly(dimethylsiloxane), and hot embossing of PS. This allowed the production of large numbers of microstructured surfaces with high reproducibility and fidelity of replication. Using inverted micro contact printing, the plateau surface between the microwells was successfully passivated to block adsorption of proteins and prevent cell attachment by transfer of a graft-copolymer, poly(l-lysine)-g-poly(ethylene glycol). The surface inside the microwells was subsequently modified by spontaneous adsorption of proteins or functionalized PLL-g-PEG/PEG-X (X=biotin or specific, cell-interactive peptide) to elicit specific responses inside the wells. Preliminary cell experiments demonstrated the functionality of such a device to host single epithelial cells (MDCK II) inside the functionalized microwells and thus to control their 3-D shape. This novel platform is useful for fundamental cell-biological studies and applications in the area of cell-based sensing.

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