Substrate micropatterns produced by polymer demixing regulate focal adhesions, actin anisotropy, and lineage differentiation of stem cells

Sebastián L. Vega, Varun Arvind, Prakhar Mishra, Joachim Kohn, N. Sanjeeva Murthy, Prabhas V. Moghe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Stem cells are adherent cells whose multipotency and differentiation can be regulated by numerous microenvironmental signals including soluble growth factors and surface topography. This study describes a simple method for creating distinct micropatterns via microphase separation resulting from polymer demixing of poly(desaminotyrosyl-tyrosine carbonate) (PDTEC) and polystyrene (PS). Substrates with co-continuous (ribbons) or discontinuous (islands and pits) PDTEC regions were obtained by varying the ratio of PDTEC and sacrificial PS. Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) cultured on co-continuous PDTEC substrates for 3 days in bipotential adipogenic/osteogenic (AD/OS) induction medium showed no change in cell morphology but exhibited increased anisotropic cytoskeletal organization and larger focal adhesions when compared to MSCs cultured on discontinuous micropatterns. After 14 days in bipotential AD/OS induction medium, MSCs cultured on co-continuous micropatterns exhibited increased expression of osteogenic markers, whereas MSCs on discontinuous PDTEC substrates showed a low expression of adipogenic and osteogenic differentiation markers. Substrates with graded micropatterns were able to reproduce the influence of local underlying topography on MSC differentiation, thus demonstrating their potential for high throughput analysis. This work presents polymer demixing as a simple, non-lithographic technique to produce a wide range of micropatterns on surfaces with complex geometries to influence cellular and tissue regenerative responses. Statement of Significance: A better understanding of how engineered microenvironments influence stem cell differentiation is integral to increasing the use of stem cells and materials in a wide range of tissue engineering applications. In this study, we show the range of topography obtained by polymer demixing is sufficient for investigating how surface topography affects stem cell morphology and differentiation. Our findings show that co-continuous topographies favor early (3-day) cytoskeletal anisotropy and focal adhesion maturation as well as long-term (14-day) expression of osteogenic differentiation markers. Taken together, this study presents a simple approach to pattern topographies that induce divergent responses in stem cell morphology and differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-28
Number of pages8
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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