Micro-scale and meso-scale architectural cues cooperate and compete to direct aligned tissue formation

Christopher L. Gilchrist, David S. Ruch, Dianne Little, Farshid Guilak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Tissue and biomaterial microenvironments provide architectural cues that direct important cell behaviors including cell shape, alignment, migration, and resulting tissue formation. These architectural features may be presented to cells across multiple length scales, from nanometers to millimeters in size. In this study, we examined how architectural cues at two distinctly different length scales, "micro-scale" cues on the order of ~1-2μm, and "meso-scale" cues several orders of magnitude larger (>100μm), interact to direct aligned neo-tissue formation. Utilizing a micro-photopatterning (μPP) model system to precisely arrange cell-adhesive patterns, we examined the effects of substrate architecture at these length scales on human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) organization, gene expression, and fibrillar collagen deposition. Both micro- and meso-scale architectures directed cell alignment and resulting tissue organization, and when combined, meso cues could enhance or compete against micro-scale cues. As meso boundary aspect ratios were increased, meso-scale cues overrode micro-scale cues and controlled tissue alignment, with a characteristic critical width (~500μm) similar to boundary dimensions that exist invivo in highly aligned tissues. Meso-scale cues acted via both lateral confinement (in a cell-density-dependent manner) and by permitting end-to-end cell arrangements that yielded greater fibrillar collagen deposition. Despite large differences in fibrillar collagen content and organization between μPP architectural conditions, these changes did not correspond with changes in gene expression of key matrix or tendon-related genes. These findings highlight the complex interplay between geometric cues at multiple length scales and may have implications for tissue engineering strategies, where scaffold designs that incorporate cues at multiple length scales could improve neo-tissue organization and resulting functional outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10015-10024
Number of pages10
Issue number38
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Actin
  • Ligament
  • Mesenchymal stem cell
  • Micropatterning
  • Nanotopography
  • Tendon


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