Microheated substrates for patterning cells and controlling development

Wenmiao Shu, W.N. Everett, Q.X. Zhang, M.H. Liu, A. Trigg, Yuexia Ma, S.M. Spearing, Shu Wang, H.-J. Sue, P.M. Moran

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Here, we seek to control cellular development by devising a means through which cells can be subjected to a microheated environment in standard culture conditions. Numerous techniques have been devised for controlling cellular function and development via manipulation of surface environmental cues at the micro- and nanoscale. It is well understood that temperature plays a significant role in the rate of cellular activities, migratory behavior (thermotaxis), and in some cases, protein expression. Yet, the effects and possible utilization of micrometer-scale temperature fields in cell cultures have not been explored. Toward this end, two types of thermally isolated microheated substrates were designed and fabricated, one with standard backside etching beneath a dielectric film and another with a combination of surface and bulk micromachining and backside etching. The substrates were characterized with infrared microscopy, finite element modeling, scanning electron microscopy, stylus profilometry, and electrothermal calibrations. Neuron culture studies were conducted on these substrates to 1) examine the feasibility of using a microheated environment to achieve patterned cell growth and 2) selectively accelerate neural development on regions less than 100 /spl mu/m wide. Results show that attached neurons, grown on microheated regions set at 37/spl deg/C, extended processes substantially faster than those incubated at 25/spl deg/C on the same substrate. Further, unattached neurons were positioned precisely along the length of the heater filament (operating at 45/spl deg/C) using free convection currents. These preliminary findings indicate that microheated substrates may be used to direct cellular development spatially in a practical manner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)924 - 934
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Microelectromechanical Systems
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • dielectric substrates
  • neurons
  • scanning electron microscopy
  • micromachining
  • biological techniques

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