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Imprinting of natural surfaces

Natural surface architectures

In nature, we can find plants and animals with a wide variety of surface structures that are optimized to serve specialized functions. These structures have a large diversity in topographical shapes, show varying degrees of surface roughness and can possess nano- and microscale hierarchy. Considering that cells interact strongly with their external environment, it is not surprising that these natural architectures can be an inspiration for tissue engineering applications.
At cBITE, we aim to further explore the fascinating possibilities that nature offers by assessing the potential of these surfaces to control cell behavior. Thanks through a collaboration with universities in Ecuador, we can tap into the large variety nature offers us. To achieve the replication, an easy and straightforward procedure is carried out where PDMS is cured upon the topographies which can subsequently be used to imprint the structures in polystyrene, the standard material used today in cell culture. By including natural surface architectures in our topographical library, we expand our experimental design space, which will provide us with a better understanding in the interaction between materials and cells.



Fabrication scheme illustrating the procedure for replicating natural topographies. PDMS is poured on the natural substrate and allowed to cure at room temperature. After curing, polystyrene and the PDMS imprint are subjected to increased pressure and temperature, allowing the polystyrene to take over the natural imprint.



Culturing cells on imprints of natural surfaces reveals distinct morphologic characteristics compared to flat. Nucleus is stained with DAPI (blue) and actin cytoskeleton with phalloidin (green). Scalebar represents 10 µm. SEM imaging of these natural surfaces reveal a large variety in the structural organization. Depicted are the the red rose (Rosea Rehd), the holy lotus (Nelumbo Nucifera), and the onion (Allium cepa). Scalebar represents 10 µm.

Further reading

Cha et al., Macromolecular BioScience, 2011 et al., Macromolecular BioScience, 2011
Alapka et al., ACS Nano, 2017


  • BiS-Biointerface Science in Regenerative Medicine
  • TU/e Department of Biomedical Engineering
Eindhoven University of Technology
PO Box 513
5600 MB, Eindhoven
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