• nanotopography;
  • corneal epithelial cells;
  • contact guidance


Topographic features are generally accepted as being capable of modulating cell alignment. Of particular interest is the potential that topographic feature geometry induces cell alignment indirectly through impacting adsorbed proteins from the cell culture medium on the surface of the substrate. However, it has also been reported that micron-scale feature depth significantly impacts the level of alignment of cellular populations on topography, despite being orders of magnitude larger than the average adsorbed protein layer (nm). In order to better determine the impact of biomimetic length scale topography and adsorbed protein interaction on cellular morphology we have systematically investigated the effect of combinations of sub-micron to nanoscale feature depth and lateral pitch on corneal epithelial cell alignment. In addition we have used the unique properties of a serum-free media alternative in direct comparison to serum-rich medium to investigate the role of culture medium protein composition on cellular alignment to topographically patterned surfaces. Our observation that increasing groove depth elicited larger populations of corneal epithelial cells to align regardless of culture medium composition and of cell orientation with respect to the topography, suggests that these cells can sense changes in topographic feature depths independent of adsorbed proteins localized along ridge edges and tops. However, our data also suggests a strong combinatory effect of topography with culture medium composition, and also a cell type dependency in determining the level of cell elongation and alignment to nanoscale topographic features. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res 2008