Dynamic cell behavior on shape memory polymer substrates

Kevin A. Davis, Kelly A. Burke, Patrick T. Mather, James H. Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

196 Scopus citations


Cell culture substrates of defined topography have emerged as powerful tools with which to investigate cell mechanobiology, but current technologies only allow passive control of substrate properties. Here we present a thermo-responsive cell culture system that uses shape memory polymer (SMP) substrates that are programmed to change surface topography during cell culture. Our hypothesis was that a shape-memory-activated change in substrate topography could be used to control cell behavior. To test this hypothesis, we embossed an initially flat SMP substrate to produce a temporary topography of parallel micron-scale grooves. After plating cells on the substrate, we triggered shape memory activation using a change in temperature tailored to be compatible with mammalian cell culture, thereby causing topographic transformation back to the original flat surface. We found that the programmed erasure of substrate topography caused a decrease in cell alignment as evidenced by an increase in angular dispersion with corresponding remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton. Cell viability remained greater than 95% before and after topography change and temperature increase. These results demonstrate control of cell behavior through shape-memory-activated topographic changes and introduce the use of active cell culture SMP substrates for investigation of mechanotransduction, cell biomechanical function, and cell soft-matter physics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2285-2293
Number of pages9
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Cell culture
  • Shape memory
  • Surface topography
  • Thermally responsive material

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Bioengineering
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials


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