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Curvature as a topographical cue influencing cellular behavior

Cells are influenced by a multitude of different biochemical and physical cues, like composition and physical properties of the extracellular matrix. Concerning physical cues, surface topographies are often discussed as an important influential factor. However most previous investigations are made with sharp edged microstructures, whereas smooth, curved microscale topographies might be biologically more relevant, regarding their similarity to the in-vivo situation.

To address this lack of highly defined surfaces with varying curvatures we developed the CurvChip. This chip platform is manufactured by employing an in-house built, low cost photolithography station with a positive photoresist, followed by a thermal reflow step. Using this approach we yield a model chip system where different parameter can be varied, including the magnitude of the pricipal curvature, the axiality and sign of the curvature (negative / positive curvature, corresponding to concave / convex). Additionally also biochemical cues can be modified.

Using these systematically varying topographies as substrates for cell experiments, we investigate the mechanisms leading cells to sense surface topographical features like curvature and how specific surface characteristics can be used to manipulate or control cells in vitro and in vivo.

The project is partially funded by the MWK Baden-Württemberg as part of the interdisciplinary graduate school “Intelligente Prozess- und Materialentwicklung in der Biomateriomics IPMB”.