Precision Assembly of Complex Cellular Microenvironments using Holographic Optical Tweezers

Kirkham, Glen R.; Britchford, Emily; Upton, Thomas; Ware, James; Gibson, Graham M.; Devaud, Yannick; Ehrbar, Martin; Padgett, Miles; Allen, Stephanie; Buttery, Lee D. and Shakesheff, Kevin (2015). Precision Assembly of Complex Cellular Microenvironments using Holographic Optical Tweezers. Scientific Reports, 5, article no. 8577.



The accurate study of cellular microenvironments is limited by the lack of technologies that can manipulate cells in 3D at a sufficiently small length scale. The ability to build and manipulate multicellular microscopic structures will facilitate a more detailed understanding of cellular function in fields such as developmental and stem cell biology. We present a holographic optical tweezers based technology to accurately generate bespoke cellular micro-architectures. Using embryonic stem cells, 3D structures of varying geometries were created and stabilized using hydrogels and cell-cell adhesion methods. Control of chemical microenvironments was achieved by the temporal release of specific factors from polymer microparticles positioned within these constructs. Complex co-culture micro-environmental analogues were also generated to reproduce structures found within adult stem cell niches. The application of holographic optical tweezers-based micromanipulation will enable novel insights into biological microenvironments by allowing researchers to form complex architectures with sub-micron precision of cells, matrices and molecules.

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