The engineering of tissue is preferably done with stem cells, which can be differentiated into the tissue of interest using biochemical or physical cues. While much effort has been focused on using biological factors to regulate stem cell differentiation, recently interest in the contribution of physical factors has increased. In this work, three-dimensional (3-D) microchannels with topographic micropatterns were fabricated by femtosecond laser machining on a biodegradable polymer (poly(L-lactide-co-ε-caprolactone)) substrate. Two substrates with narrow and wide channels respectively were created. Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) were cultured on the scaffolds for cell proliferation and cellular organization. Gene expression and the immunostaining of myogenic and neurogenic markers were studied. Both scaffolds improved the cell alignment along the channels as compared to the control group. Microfilaments within hMSCs were more significantly aligned and elongated on the narrower microchannels. The gene expression study revealed significant up-regulation of several hallmark markers associated with myogenesis for hMSCs cultured on the scaffold with narrow microchannels, while osteogenic and neurogenic markers were down-regulated or remained similar to the control at day 14. Immunostaining of myogen- and neurogen-specific differentiation markers were used to further confirm the specific differentiation towards a myogenic lineage. This study demonstrates that femtosecond laser machining is a versatile tool for generating controllable 3-D microchannels with topographic features that can be used to induce specific myogenic differentiation of hMSCs in vitro, even in the absence of biological factors.
Copyright © 2011 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.