Size-Tunable Nanoneedle Arrays for Influencing Stem Cell Morphology, Gene Expression, and Nuclear Membrane Curvature

ACS Nano. 2020 May 26;14(5):5371-5381. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.9b08689. Epub 2020 Apr 29.


High-aspect-ratio nanostructures have emerged as versatile platforms for intracellular sensing and biomolecule delivery. Here, we present a microfabrication approach in which a combination of reactive ion etching protocols were used to produce high-aspect-ratio, nondegradable silicon nanoneedle arrays with tip diameters that could be finely tuned between 20 and 700 nm. We used these arrays to guide the long-term culture of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). Notably, we used changes in the nanoneedle tip diameter to control the morphology, nuclear size, and F-actin alignment of interfaced hMSCs and to regulate the expression of nuclear lamina genes, Yes-associated protein (YAP) target genes, and focal adhesion genes. These topography-driven changes were attributed to signaling by Rho-family GTPase pathways, differences in the effective stiffness of the nanoneedle arrays, and the degree of nuclear membrane impingement, with the latter clearly visualized using focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM). Our approach to design high-aspect-ratio nanostructures will be broadly applicable to design biomaterials and biomedical devices used for long-term cell stimulation and monitoring.

Keywords: biointerface; cell−material interactions; deep reactive ion etching (DRIE); high aspect ratio; microfabrication; nanoneedles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Nanostructures*
  • Nuclear Envelope*
  • Silicon
  • Stem Cells


  • Silicon