Screening rat mesenchymal stem cell attachment and differentiation on surface chemistries using plasma polymer gradients

Peng Yuan Wang, Lauren R. Clements, Helmut Thissend, Wei Bor Tsaia, Nicolas H. Voelckere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


It is well known that the surface chemistry of biomaterials is important for both initial cell attachment and the downstream cell response. Surface chemistry gradients are a new format that allows the screening of the subtleties of cell-surface interactions in high throughput. In this study, two surface chemical gradients were fabricated using diffusion control during plasma polymerization via a tilted mask. Acrylic acid (AA) plasma polymer gradients were coated on a uniform 1,7-octadiene (OD) plasma polymer layer to generate OD-AA plasma polymer gradients, whilst diethylene glycol dimethyl ether (DG) plasma polymer gradients were coated on a uniform AA plasma polymer layer to generate AA-DG plasma polymer gradients. Gradient surfaces were characterized by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, infrared microscopy mapping, profilometry, water contact angle (WCA) goniometry and atomic force microscopy. Cell attachment density and differentiation into osteo- and adipo-lineages of rat-bone-marrow mesenchymal stem cells (rBMSCs) was studied on gradients. Cell adhesion after 24 h culture was sensitive to the chemical gradients, resulting in a cell density gradient along the substrate. The slope of the cell density gradient changed between 24 and 6 days due to cell migration and growth. Induction of rBMSCs into osteoblast- and adipocyte-like cells on the two plasma polymer gradients suggested that osteogenic differentiation was sensitive to local cell density, but adipogenic differentiation was not. Using mixed induction medium (50% osteogenic and 50% adipogenic medium), thick AA plasma polymer coating (>40 nm thickness with ∼11% COOH component and 35° WCA) robustly supported osteogenic differentiation as determined by colony formation and calcium deposition. This study establishes a simple but powerful approach to the formation of plasma polymer based gradients, and demonstrates that MSC behavior can be influenced by small changes in surface chemistry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-67
Number of pages10
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Differentiation
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Plasma polymers
  • Surface chemistry
  • Surface-bound gradients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Medicine(all)


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