Does Translational Symmetry Matter on the Micro Scale? Fibroblastic and Osteoblastic Interactions with the Topographically Distinct Poly(ε-Caprolactone)/Hydroxyapatite Thin Films

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Material composition and topography of the cell-contacting material interface are important considerations in the design of biomaterials at the nano and micro scales. This study is one of the first to have assessed the osteoblastic response to micropatterned polymer–ceramic composite surfaces. In particular, the effect of topographic variations of composite poly(ε-caprolactone)/hydroxyapatite (PCL/HAp) films on viability, proliferation, migration and osteogenesis of fibroblastic and osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells was evaluated. To that end, three different micropatterned PCL/HAp films were compared: flat and textured, the latter of which included films comprising periodically arranged and randomly distributed oval topographic features 10 μm in diameter, 20 μm in separation and 10 μm in height, comparable to the dimensions of MC3T3-E1 cells. PCL/HAp films were fabricated by the combination of a bottom-up, soft chemical synthesis of the ceramic, nanoparticulate phase and a top-down, photolithographic technique for imprinting fine, microscale features on them. X-ray diffraction analysis indicated an isotropic orientation of both the polymeric chains and HAp crystallites in the composite samples. Biocompatibility tests indicated no significant decrease in their viability when grown on PCL/HAp films. Fibroblast proliferation and migration onto PCL/HAp films proceeded slower than on the control borosilicate glass, with the flat composite film fostering more cell migration activity than the films containing topographic features. The gene expression of seven analyzed osteogenic markers, including procollagen type I, osteocalcin, osteopontin, alkaline phosphatase, and the transcription factors Runx2 and TGFβ-1, was, however, consistently upregulated in cells grown on PCL/HAp films comprising periodically ordered topographic features, suggesting that the higher levels of symmetry of the topographic ordering impose a moderate mechanochemical stress on the adherent cells and thus promote a more favorable osteogenic response. The obtained results suggest that topography can be a more important determinant of the cell/surface interaction than the surface chemistry and/or stiffness as well as that the regularity of the distribution of topographic features can be a more important variable than the topographic features per se.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, volume 6, issue 15, in 2014 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at DOI: 10.1021/am503043t.


American Chemical Society