In vitro studies of cell behavior are an essential prerequisite in determining in vivo responses to pharmacological agents, cell therapies, biomaterials, and implantable devices. However, culturing mammalian cells on a conventional Petri dish is not an accurate representation of the in vivo environment and as a result cells behave in a way that may not be medically relevant. To address this issue, a design for an inexpensive culture surface or scaffold has been designed and manufactured at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Cells cultured on this scaffold exhibit significant changes in morphology, cytoskeleton arrangement, gene expression, and ECM formation when compared to cells grown on conventional substrates. The scaffold can be made from a variety of synthetic or natural materials since its properties arise from the application of physical and chemical surface modifications. The technology may be applied to implanted medical devices to inhibit encapsulation of the device and promote tissue integration.
The technology has an immediate application to the field of high throughput screening (HTS) where it is critical that cells behave in a biologically relevant manner. The global HTS market is expected to reach $20 billion by 2017 and it is estimated that 50% of all HTS assays are carried out on cultured cells. We believe that the technology is effective because it mimics in vivo interactions that the cells experience and promotes the biosynthesis of relevant adhesion points and extra cellular matrix. The scaffold may be manufactured in a continuous film and applied to conventional tissue culture plastic or alternatively may be applied to the plastic itself. The cost of the modification would not add significantly to that of conventional materials since the chemistry is stable and does involve application of proteins or other sensitive biochemicals. The attached figure shows the change in morphology of cultured fibroblasts grown on conventional tissue culture plastic and our culture scaffold.
Fluorescent images of (A) ?broblast cultured on a ?at surface and (B) our culture scaffold surface. Scale bar is equal to 50 ?m