The application of nano- and microfabrication to biology is an emerging area linking engineering and biology. We are using microfabrication techniques to make patterns of specific bioactive molecules on glass and silicon surfaces to study central nervous system neurons and glia. Cell adhesion and tissue reaction to implanted silicon based electronic prosthetic devices are being studied, and the methods expanded to interface neurons with integrated circuits to study their electrical properties. The number, type and distribution of cells adhering to particular portions of a substrate can be influenced by patterning amine groups, proteins or polypeptides. We are using microcontact printing as an alternative to lithography for chemical patterning.
Primary cultures of rat cortical astrocytes and hippocampal neurons, and continuous cultures of transformed astrocytes were prepared on microcontact printed patterns produced by an elastomer stamp made from a silicon master. Fig. 1 shows two such patterns prepared by depositing self-assembled monolayers of N1[3-(Trimethoxylsily)propyl] diethylenetriamine (DETA) and octadecyltrichlorosilane (OTS).