• nanoscale topography;
  • corneal epithelial basement membrane;
  • epithelial cell migration


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of surface topographic features that mimic the corneal epithelial basement membrane on cell migration. We used electron-beam and X-ray lithography and reactive ion etching to pattern silicon wafers with pitches (groove width plus ridge width) of nano- and microscale dimensions (pitches ranged from 400 to 4000 nm). Additionally, polyurethane patterned surfaces were created by replication molding techniques to allow for real-time imaging of migrating cells. Individual SV40-transformed human corneal epithelial cells frequently aligned with respect to the underlying surface patterns and migrated almost exclusively along grooves and ridges of all pitches. Direction of migration of individual cells on smooth surfaces was random. In cell dispersion assays, colonies of cells migrated out from initially circular zones predominantly along grooves and ridges, although there was some migration perpendicular to the ridges. On smooth surfaces, cells migrated radially, equally in all directions, maintaining circular colony shapes. We conclude that substratum features resembling the native basement membrane modulate corneal epithelial cell migration. These findings have relevance to the maintenance of corneal homeostasis and wound healing, as well as to the evolution of strategies in tissue engineering, corneal prosthesis development, and cell culture material fabrication. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res, 2005