Surface Roughness and Substrate Stiffness Synergize to Drive Cellular Mechanoresponse.
Y. Hou, L. Yu, M. Zhang, W. Xie, J. L. Cuellar-Camacho, Z. Chu, Q. Wei, and R. Haag – 2020
Material surface topographic features have been shown to be crucial for tissue regeneration and surface treatment of implanted devices. Many biomaterials were investigated with respect to the response of cells on surface roughness. However, some conclusions even conflicted with each other due to the unclear interplay of surface topographic features and substrate elastic features as well as the lack of mechanistic studies. Herein, wide-scale surface roughness gradient hydrogels, integrating the surface roughness from nanoscale to microscale with controllable stiffness, were developed via soft lithography with precise surface morphology. Based on this promising platform, we systematically studied the mechanosensitive response of human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to a broad range of roughnesses (200 nm to 1.2 μm for Rq) and different substrate stiffnesses. We observed that MSCs responded to surface roughness in a stiffness-dependent manner by reorganizing the surface hierarchical structure. Surprisingly, the cellular mechanoresponse and osteogenesis were obviously enhanced on very soft hydrogels (3.8 kPa) with high surface roughness, which was comparable to or even better than that on smooth stiff substrates. These findings extend our understanding of the interactions between cells and biomaterials, highlighting an effective noninvasive approach to regulate stem cell fate via synergetic physical cues.