Polymer Science Faculty Research

Control of surface chemistry, substrate stiffness, and cell function in a novel terpolymer methacrylate library

Abraham Joy, The University of Akron


A focused library of methacrylate terpolymers was synthesized to explore the effects of varying surface chemistry and adhesive peptide ligands on cell function. The chemical diversity of methacrylate monomers enabled construction of a library of polymers in which one can systematically vary the chemical composition to achieve a wide range of contact angle, Young's modulus, and Tg values. Furthermore, the materials were designed to allow surface immobilization of bioactive peptides. We then examined the effects of these material compositions on protein adsorption and cell attachment, proliferation, and differentiation. We observed that chemical composition of the polymers was an important determinant for NIH 3T3 cell attachment and proliferation, as well as human mesenchymal stem cell differentiation, and correlated directly with the ability of the polymers to adsorb proteins that mediate cell adhesion. Importantly, functionalization of the methacrylate terpolymer library with an adhesive GRGDS peptide normalized cellular responses. RGD-functionalized polymers uniformly exhibited robust attachment, proliferation, and differentiation irrespective of the underlying substrate chemistry. These studies provide a library-based approach to rapidly explore the biological functionality of biomaterials with a wide range of compositions, and highlights the importance of cell and protein cell adhesion in predicting their performance.