Assessing embryonic stem cell response to surface chemistry using plasma polymer gradients

Frances J. Harding, Lauren R. Clements, Robert D. Short, Helmut Thissen, Nicolas H. Voelcker

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30 Citations (Scopus)


The control of cell-material interactions is the key to a broad range of biomedical interactions. Gradient surfaces have recently been established as tools allowing the high-throughput screening and optimization of these interactions. In this paper, we show that plasma polymer gradients can reveal the subtle influence of surface chemistry on embryonic stem cell behavior and probe the mechanisms by which this occurs. Lateral gradients of surface chemistry were generated by plasma polymerization of diethylene glycol dimethyl ether on top of a substrate coated with an acrylic acid plasma polymer using a tilted slide as a mask. Gradient surfaces were characterized by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, infrared microscopy mapping and profilometry. By changing the plasma polymerization time, the gradient profile could be easily manipulated. To demonstrate the utility of these surfaces for the screening of cell-material interactions, we studied the response of mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells to these gradients and compared the performance of different plasma polymerization times during gradient fabrication. We observed a strong correlation between surface chemistry and cell attachment, colony size and retention of stem cell markers. Cell adhesion and colony formation showed striking differences on gradients with different plasma polymer deposition times. Deposition time influenced the depth of the plasma film deposited and the relative position of surface functional group density on the substrate, but not the range of plasma-generated species. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1739-1748
Number of pages10
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Gradient
  • High throughput screening
  • Plasma polymer
  • Stem cell

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