Metamaterials for Mechanically Directing Cell Phenotype

Karen Dubbin | 19-FS-064

Project Overview

Abundant research has started to reveal how microscale surface topography can influence a wide range of cell phenotypes in vitro, such as cell mobility, cell size, and cell viability. However, while these studies shed some light on cell interactions with two-dimensional surfaces of different length scales, cells in vivo experience their surroundings in three dimensions. Therefore, investigations into cell interactions with varying three-dimensional (3D) microstructures are needed to gain biologically relevant insight into how microarchitecture and feature size influences cell behavior. Understanding this relationship between 3D microstructure and cell behavior will have a huge impact on tissue engineering and mechanobiology. Until now, the ability to fabricate complex 3D microstructures for cell behavior studies has been limited.

This study harnessed Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's projection micro-stereolithography capability to probe the effects of micrometer-scale changes in 3D architecture on cell phenotype. Using a polymer structure with treated surfaces, this study was able to demonstrate a significantly increased cell adhesion to the structures with four different mammalian cell types. This success provides a new capability for the Laboratory, using printed structures to culture cells in vitro. We further examined cell behavior by exploring the application of external forces, such as cyclic loading and flow-induced shear stress, to cell-seeded 3D microstructures.

Mission Impact

This project built on two of the Laboratory's core competencies: advanced materials and manufacturing, as well as bioscience and bioengineering. This project merges additive manufacturing techniques with bioengineering to develop a new capability for the Laboratory. Multiple projects at the Laboratory can benefit from this type of architectural cell control.

Publications, Presentations, and Patents

Chen, W., et al. 2019. "Stiff isotropic lattices beyond the Maxwell criterion." Sci Adv 5 (9):eaaw1937. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw1937. LLNL-JRNL-759177