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Thermoresponsive polymer micropatterns fabricated by dip-pen nanolithography for a highly controllable substrate with potential cellular applications

Laing, Stacey and Suriano, Raffaella and Lamprou, Dimitrios A. and Smith, Carol-Anne and Dalby, Matthew J. and Mabbott, Samuel and Faulds, Karen and Graham, Duncan (2016) Thermoresponsive polymer micropatterns fabricated by dip-pen nanolithography for a highly controllable substrate with potential cellular applications. ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, 8 (37). 24844–24852. ISSN 1944-8244

Text (Laing-etal-AMI-2016-thermoresponsive-polymer-micropatterns-fabricated-by-dip-pen-nanolithography)
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    We report a novel approach for patterning thermoresponsive hydrogels based on N,N-diethylacrylamide (DEAAm) and bifunctional Jeffamine ED-600 by dip-pen nanolithography (DPN). The direct writing of micron-sized thermoresponsive polymer spots was achieved with efficient control over feature size. A Jeffamine-based ink prepared through the combination of organic polymers, such as DEAAm, in an inorganic silica network was used to print thermosensitive arrays on a thiol-silanised silicon oxide substrate. The use of a Jeffamine hydrogel, acting as a carrier matrix, allowed a reduction in the evaporation of ink molecules with high volatility, such as DEAAm, and facilitated the transfer of ink from tip to substrate. The thermoresponsive behaviour of polymer arrays which swell/de-swell in aqueous solution in response to a change in temperature was successfully characterised by atomic force microscopy (AFM) and Raman spectroscopy: a thermally-induced change in height and hydration state was observed, respectively. Finally, we demonstrate that cells can adhere to and interact with these dynamic features and exhibit a change in behaviour when cultured on the substrates above and below the transition temperature of the Jeffamine/DEAAm thermoresponsive hydrogels. This demonstrates the potential of these micropatterned hydrogels to act as a controllable surface for cell growth.