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

Hyejeong Seong, Stuart Higgins, Jelle Penders, James Armstrong, Spencer Crowder, Axel Moore, Julia Sero, Michele Becce, Molly Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (SciVal)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5371–5381
Number of pages11
JournalACS Nano
Issue number5
Early online date24 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2020


  • nanotechnology
  • cell morphology
  • stem cells


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