The current development of nanobiotechnologies requires a better understanding of cell-surface interactions on the nanometre scale. Recently, advances in nanoscale patterning and detection have allowed the fabrication of appropriate substrates and the study of cell-substrate interactions. In this review we discuss the methods currently available for nanoscale patterning and their merits, as well as techniques for controlling the surface chemistry of materials at the nanoscale without changing the nanotopography and the possibility of truly characterizing the surface chemistry at the nanoscale. We then discuss the current knowledge of how a cell can interact with a substrate at the nanoscale and the effect of size, morphology, organization and separation of nanofeatures on cell response. Moreover, cell-substrate interactions are mediated by the presence of proteins adsorbed from biological fluids on the substrate. Many questions remain on the effect of nanotopography on protein adsorption. We review papers related to this point. As all these parameters have an influence on cell response, it is important to develop specific studies to point out their relative influence, as well as the biological mechanisms underlying cell responses to nanotopography. This will be the basis for future research in this field. An important topic in tissue engineering is the effect of nanoscale topography on bacteria, since cells have to compete with bacteria in many environments. The limited current knowledge of this topic is also discussed in the light of using topography to encourage cell adhesion while limiting bacterial adhesion. We also discuss current and prospective applications of cell-surface interactions on the nanoscale. Finally, based on questions raised previously that remain to be solved in the field, we propose future directions of research in materials science to help elucidate the relative influence of the physical and chemical aspects of nanotopography on bacteria and cell response with the aim of contributing to the development of nanobiotechnologies.
2010 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.