The scale of substratum topographic features modulates proliferation of corneal epithelial cells and corneal fibroblasts

S. J. Liliensiek, S. Campbell, P. F. Nealey, Christopher J Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


The cornea is a complex tissue composed of different cell types, including corneal epithelial cells and keratocytes. Each of these cell types are directly exposed to rich nanoscale topography from the basement membrane or surrounding extracellular matrix. Nanoscale topography has been shown to influence cell behaviors, including orientation, alignment, differentiation, migration, and proliferation. We investigated whether proliferation of SV40-transformed human corneal epithelial cells (SV40-HCECs), primary human corneal epithelial cells (HCECs), and primary corneal fibroblasts is influenced by the scale of topographic features of the substratum. Using basement membrane feature sizes as our guide and the known dimensions of collagen fibrils of the corneal stroma (20-60 nm), we fabricated polyurethane molded substrates, which contain anisotropic feature sizes ranging from 200-2000 nm on pitches ranging from 400 to 4000 nm (pitch = ridge width + groove width). The planar regions separating each of the six patterned regions served as control surfaces. Primary corneal and SV40-HCEC proliferation decreased in direct response to decreasing nanoscale topographies down to 200 nm. In contrast to corneal epithelial cells, corneal fibroblasts did not exhibit significantly different response to any of the topographies when compared with planar controls at 5 days. However, decreased proliferation was observed on the smallest feature sizes after 14 days in culture. Results from these experiments are relevant in understanding the potential mechanisms involved in the control of proliferation and differentiation of cells within the cornea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-192
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Contact guidance
  • Corneal epithelial cells
  • Nanotopography
  • Proliferation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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