Active Cell Cultures

Living cells are remarkably complex, dynamic, and versatile systems, but the material substrates currently used to culture them are not. Although properties of the material substrate, such as surface geometry and stiffness, can direct cell lineage specification, cell-growth kinetics, cell orientation, cell migration, and cell traction [1-9], the polymeric materials commonly used in cell culture, such as polystyrene, offer attached cells only a 2D surface of unchanging properties. This physical stasis of current cell culture materials severely limits our ability to control cell-material interactions during cell culture and, therefore, our ability to advance understanding of fundamental cell processes. To address this need, the Henderson and Mather labs are collaborating to develop and study “active” cell culture technologies that allow dynamic control of cell-material interactions. The products of this project are expected to augment the toolbox used by researchers in the fields of biology and biomedical engineering, thereby transforming the experimental designs and potentially engendering new discoveries.

Active Cell Cultures -Tissue Engineering Research

Demonstration of active cell culture. Cell orientation and morphology are controlled by an active cell culture substrate that transforms from a grooved topography (a and c) to a flat surface (b and d) on command. CellMask staining in a and c allows visualization of the change in cell shape that accompanies the change in morphology, while actin staining in c and d reveal associated changes in cytoskeletal organization.

Representative Publications

Xu X, Davis KA, Yang P, Gu X, Henderson JH, and Mather PT. Shape memory RGD-containing hydrogels: synthesis, characterization, and application in cell culture. Macromolecular Symposia, 309-310: 162-172, 2011.

Davis KA, Luo X, Mather PT, and Henderson JH. Shape memory polymers for active cell culture. J Vis Exp (53):e2903, 2011.

Davis KA, Burke KA, Mather PT, and Henderson JH. Dynamic cell behavior on shape memory polymer substrates. Biomaterials, 32:2285–2293, 2011.