A versatile method of patterning proteins and cells

Anil B. Shrirao, Frank H. Kung, Derek Yip, Bonnie L. Firestein, Cheul H. Cho, Ellen Townes-Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Substrate and cell patterning techniques are widely used in cell biology to study cell-to-cell and cell-to-substrate interactions. Conventional patterning techniques work well only with simple shapes, small areas and selected bio-materials. This article describes a method to distribute cell suspensions as well as substrate solutions into complex, long, closed (dead-end) polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microchannels using negative pressure. This method enables researchers to pattern multiple substrates including fibronectin, collagen, antibodies (Sal-1), poly-D-lysine (PDL), and laminin. Patterning of substrates allows one to indirectly pattern a variety of cells. We have tested C2C12 myoblasts, the PC12 neuronal cell line, embryonic rat cortical neurons, and amphibian retinal neurons. In addition, we demonstrate that this technique can directly pattern fibroblasts in microfluidic channels via brief application of a low vacuum on cell suspensions. The low vacuum does not significantly decrease cell viability as shown by cell viability assays. Modifications are discussed for application of the method to different cell and substrate types. This technique allows researchers to pattern cells and proteins in specific patterns without the need for exotic materials or equipment and can be done in any laboratory with a vacuum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere55513
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number120
StatePublished - Feb 26 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


  • Bioengineering
  • Cell culture
  • Cell pattern
  • Fibroblast
  • Issue 120
  • Microchannel
  • Microfluidic
  • Myoblast
  • Neuron
  • PDMS
  • Soft lithography
  • Substrate pattern
  • Vacuum

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