Topology control of human fibroblast cells monolayer by liquid crystal elastomer

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Science Advances  13 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 20, eaaz6485
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz6485


Eukaryotic cells in living tissues form dynamic patterns with spatially varying orientational order that affects important physiological processes such as apoptosis and cell migration. The challenge is how to impart a predesigned map of orientational order onto a growing tissue. Here, we demonstrate an approach to produce cell monolayers of human dermal fibroblasts with predesigned orientational patterns and topological defects using a photoaligned liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) that swells anisotropically in an aqueous medium. The patterns inscribed into the LCE are replicated by the tissue monolayer and cause a strong spatial variation of cells phenotype, their surface density, and number density fluctuations. Unbinding dynamics of defect pairs intrinsic to active matter is suppressed by anisotropic surface anchoring allowing the estimation of the elastic characteristics of the tissues. The demonstrated patterned LCE approach has potential to control the collective behavior of cells in living tissues, cell differentiation, and tissue morphogenesis.

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