Cell morphology as a design parameter in the bioengineering of cell–biomaterial surface interactions

Oliver George Frost, Nazanin Owji, Richard Thorogate, Christos Kyriakidis, Prasad Sawadkar, Nicola Mordan, Jonathan Campbell Knowles, Ferdinand Lali, Elena Garcia-Gareta Biomaterials Science

Control of cell–surface interaction is necessary for biomaterial applications such as cell sheets, intelligent cell culture surfaces, or functional coatings. In this paper, we propose the emergent property of cell morphology as a design parameter in the bioengineering of cell–biomaterial surface interactions. Cell morphology measured through various parameters can indicate ideal candidates for these various applications thus reducing the time taken for the screening and development process. The hypothesis of this study is that there is an optimal cell morphology range for enhanced cell proliferation and migration on the surface of biomaterials. To test the hypothesis, primary porcine dermal fibroblasts (PDF, 3 biological replicates) were cultured on ten different surfaces comprising components of the natural extracellular matrix of tissues. Results suggested an optimal morphology with a cell aspect ratio (CAR) between 0.2 and 0.4 for both increased cell proliferation and migration. If the CAR was below 0.2 (very elongated cell), cell proliferation was increased whilst migration was reduced. A CAR of 0.4+ (rounded cell) favoured cell migration over proliferation. The screening process, when it comes to biomaterials is a long, repetitive, arduous but necessary event. This study highlights the beneficial use of testing the cell morphology on prospective prototypes, eliminating those that do not support an optimal cell shape. We believe that the research presented in this paper is important as we can help address this screening inefficiency through the use of the emergent property of cell morphology. Future work involves automating CAR quantification for high throughput screening of prototypes.

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