Carnegie Mellon Engineering

News Brief: Carnegie Mellon's Adam Feinberg Develops Key Method for Manipulating Cells in Engineered Tissues for Medical Devices

December 15, 2014

Contact: Daniel Tkacik
Carnegie Mellon University

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University professor Adam Feinberg and colleagues have developed a new method to control how cells organize themselves on surfaces, a key process for tissue engineering such as building and interfacing muscle tissue with materials in medical devices like coronary stents. The results were published in this week's issue of Nature Methods.

"In order for muscle to contract with maximum force, you need to have all the muscle cells aligned in the same direction," explained Feinberg, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon. "By micro-patterning adhesive proteins on a surface, we can guide cells to align all together, regardless of the underlying roughness or topography."

Up until this point, Feinberg explained, scientists have been able to manipulate cells on surfaces either by micro-patterning adhesive proteins that interact with cells, or by micro-patterning topographical features in the surfaces, like pillars and ridges, which force cells to grow in specific directions. However, it has been challenging to combine both techniques together.

"To micro-pattern proteins, researchers have used a contact printing technique; imagine a rubber ink stamp," Feinberg explained. "If you place a rubber stamp on a rough surface, only the top of the rough features will touch the stamp, leaving holes and gaps in the pattern."

To address this problem, Feinberg's group created a technique termed "Patterning on Topography," that is able to reach into deep areas on rough surfaces, allowing more of the proteins to be transferred. To do this, the group first micro-patterned proteins onto a special polymer that swells when it is placed in warm water and then cooled. This swelling behavior was used to transfer the patterned protein.

"In Patterning on Topography, the release surface swells with water and pushes the protein into all the nooks and crannies on the rough surface," Feinberg explained. "We realized that the proteins were stretchy, and that they could be patterned in this new way with high fidelity, even into deep holes."

Feinberg said that this opens the door for countless new studies.

"The novelty here is the ability to combine micro-patterned chemistry and topography in new ways to control cell growth and behavior," Feinberg said. "Currently we are using this to understand more about how cells behave, but ultimately we plan to use Patterning on Topography to engineer heart muscle and to enhance the biocompatibility of medical devices, such as improving the long-term stability and performance of coronary stents."

This research was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number DP2HL117750. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Adam Feinberg Discussing Patterning on Topography:

More on Feinberg's research (video)

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