Description

In nature, cells exist in three-dimensional (3D) microenvironments with topography, stiffness, surface chemistry, and biological factors that strongly dictate their phenotype and behavior. The cellular microenvironment is an organized structure or scaffold that, together with the cells that live within it, make up living tissue. To mimic these systems and understand how the different properties of a scaffold, such as adhesion, proliferation, or function, influence cell behavior, we need to be able to fabricate cellular microenvironments with tunable properties. In this work, the nanotopography and functionality of scaffolds for cell culture were modified by coating 3D printed materials (DS3000 and poly(ethylene glycol)diacrylate, PEG-DA) with cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs). This general approach was demonstrated on a variety of structures designed to incorporate macro- and microscale features fabricated using photopolymerization and 3D printing techniques. Atomic force microscopy was used to characterize the CNC coatings and showed the ability to tune their density and in turn the surface nanoroughness from isolated nanoparticles to dense surface coverage. The ability to tune the density of CNCs on 3D printed structures could be leveraged to control the attachment and morphology of prostate cancer cells. It was also possible to introduce functionalization onto the surface of these scaffolds, either by directly coating them with CNCs grafted with the functionality of interest or with a more general approach of functionalizing the CNCs after coating using biotin-streptavidin coupling. The ability to carefully tune the nanostructure and functionalization of different 3D-printable materials is a step forward to creating scaffolds that mimic the nanoscale features of natural microenvironments, which are key to understanding their impact on cells and developing artificial tissues.