Effect of surface nanoscale topography on elastic modulus of individual osteoblastic cells as determined by atomic force microscopy

J Biomech. 2007;40(13):2865-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2007.03.018. Epub 2007 Apr 30.


Mechanical stimulation of osteoblasts by fluid flow promotes a variety of pro-differentiation effects and improving the efficiency of these mechanical signals could encourage specific differentiation pathways. One way this could be accomplished is by altering mechanical properties of osteoblasts. In this study, murine osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells were cultured on surfaces covered with nanometer-sized islands to examine the hypothesis that the elastic modulus of osteoblastic cells is affected by nanoscale topography. Nanoislands were produced by polymer demixing of polystyrene and poly(bromostyrene), which leads to a segregated polymer system and formation of nanometer-sized topographical features. The elastic modulus of MC3T3-E1 cells was determined using atomic force microscopy in conjunction with the Hertz mathematical model. Osteoblastic cells cultured on nanotopographic surfaces (11-38 nm high islands) had a different distribution of cellular modulus values, e.g., the distribution shifted toward higher modulus values, relative to cells on flat control surfaces. There were also differences in cell modulus distribution between two flat controls as surface chemistry was changed between polystyrene and glass. Taken together, our results demonstrate that both surface nanotopography and chemistry affect the mechanical properties of cells and may provide new methods for altering the response of cells to external mechanical signals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Elasticity
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Nanostructures / ultrastructure*
  • Osteoblasts / ultrastructure*
  • Probability
  • Surface Properties