Spatial distribution of mammalian cells dictated by material surface chemistry

Kevin E. Healy*, Barbara Lom, Philip E. Hockberger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Anisotropic cell culture surfaces patterned with amino and alkylsilanes can guide cell distribution and provide an approach to study important processes involved in tissue engineering, such as cell attachment and locomotion. By combining photolithographic and silane coupling techniques, glass coverslips were patterned with either n‐octadecyldimethylchlorosilane (ODDMS) or dimethyldichlorosilane (DMS), and N‐(2‐aminoethyl)‐3‐aminopropyl‐trimethoxysilane (EDS). The alkylsilanes, theoretically, have similar methyl and methylene groups exposed at the surface but different structures, with DMS being amorphous and ODDMS ordered. Neuroblastoma cells, osteosarcoma cells, and fibroblasts plated on surfaces patterned with EDS/ODDMS and EDS/DMS specifically localized on the EDS regions, but distributed randomly on ODDMS/DMS patterned surfaces. The preferential assembly of cells onto EDS regions did not depend on the structure of the adjacent alkylsilane regions and was a time‐dependent process. Angle dependent x‐ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and contact angle measurements indicated that EDS was imobilized on glass as a fractional hydrophilic monolayer, and ODDMS and DMS were bound as patchy amorphous hydrophobic multilayers. Neither surface coverage nor thickness of the overlayer seemed to be as important as surface chemistry, or charge, in guiding mammalian cell distribution. These results are consistent with the concept that mammalian cells attach to and are guided by positively charged surfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)792-800
Number of pages9
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 5 1994


  • biomaterials
  • cell adhesion
  • cell guidance
  • haptotaxis
  • surface chemistry
  • tissue engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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