Using continuous porous silicon gradients to study the influence of surface topography on the behaviour of neuroblastoma cells

Y. L. Khung, G. Barritt, N. H. Voelcker

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The effects of surface topography on cell behaviour are the subject of intense research in cell biology. These effects have so far only been studied using substrate surfaces of discretely different topography. In this paper, we present a new approach to characterise cell growth on porous silicon gradients displaying pore sizes from several thousands to a few nanometers. This widely applicable format has the potential to significantly reduce sample numbers and hence analysis time and cost. Our gradient format was applied here to the culture of neuroblastoma cells in order to determine the effects of topography on cell growth parameters. Cell viability, morphology, length and area were characterised by fluorescence and scanning electron microscopy. We observed a dramatic influence of changes in surface topography on the density and morphology of adherent neuroblastoma cells. For example, pore size regimes where cell attachment is strongly discouraged were identified providing cues for the design of low-fouling surfaces. On pore size regimes more conducive to cell attachment, lateral cell-cell interactions crosslinked the cell layer to the substratum surface, while direct substrate-cell interactions were scarce. Finally, our study revealed that cells were sensitive to nanoscale surface topography with feature sizes of < 20 nm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-800
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell material interactions
  • Porous silicon
  • Topographical gradients

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