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Ann Biomed Eng. 1994 Jul-Aug;22(4):342-56.

Biased cell migration of fibroblasts exhibiting contact guidance in oriented collagen gels.

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Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455.


We present here the first quantitative correlation for cell contact guidance in an oriented fibrillar network in terms of biased cell migration. The correlation is between the anisotropic cell diffusion parameter, DA = Dx/Dy, and the collagen gel birefringence, delta n, a measure of axially biased collagen fibril orientation in the x-direction. The cell diffusion coefficients, Dx and Dy, measure the dispersal of cells in the directions coincident with and normal to the axis of fibril orientation, respectively. Three essential methodological components are involved: (i) exploiting the orienting effect of a magnetic field on collagen fibrils during fibrillogenesis to systematically prepare uniform axially oriented collagen gels; (ii) using a microscope/image analysis workstation with precise, computer-controlled rotating and translating stages to automate birefringence measurement and, along with rapid "coarse optical sectioning" via digital image processing, to enable 3-D cell tracking of many cells in multiple samples simultaneously; and (iii) employing a rigorous statistical analysis of the cell tracks to estimate the magnitude and precision of the direction-dependent cell diffusion coefficients, Dx and Dy, that define DA. We find that this measure of biased migration in contact guidance (DA) increases with increasing collagen fibril orientation (delta n) due mainly to a rapid enhancement of migration along the axis of fibril orientation at low levels of fibril orientation, and to a continued suppression of migration normal to the axis of fibril orientation at high levels of fibril orientation.

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