Surface wettability on anchorage-dependent cells has an important role in cell growth rate. In our previous studies, we prepared a wettability gradient on polyethylene (PE) surfaces using corona discharge treatment from a knife-type electrode whose power increased gradually along the sample length. The PE surfaces were oxidized gradually with increasing power and characterized by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, contact angle goniometry, and electron spectroscopy for chemical analysis. The purpose of this study is to determine the rate of proliferation on polymer surfaces with different wettability. The behavior of cell growth for NIH/3T3 fibroblast cells attached on the polymer surfaces with different hydrophilicity was investigated using wettability gradient PE surfaces prepared by corona discharge treatment. They were investigated for the number of grown cells from 24 to 60 h in terms of surface wettability. From the slope of cell number on PE gradient surface versus culture time, the proliferation rates (number of cell/cm2 · h) were calculated. It was observed that the proliferation rate was increased more on positions with moderate hydrophilicity of the wettability gradient surface than on the more hydrophobic or hydrophilic positions, i.e., 1111 (number of cell/cm2 · h) of 57° of water contact angle at the 2.5-cm position (P < 0.05). This result seems closely related to the serum protein adsorption on the surface: the serum proteins were also adsorbed more on the moderately hydrophilic surface. In conclusion, surface wettability plays an important role in cell adhesion, spreading, and proliferation on the polymer surfaces. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 92: 599–606, 2004
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