Microfluidics cell-based assays require strong cell-substrate adhesion for cell viability, proliferation, and differentiation. The intrinsic properties of PDMS, a commonly used polymer in microfluidics systems, regarding cell-substrate interactions have limited its application for microfluidics cell-based assays. Various attempts by previous researchers, such as chemical modification, plasma-treatment, and protein-coating of PDMS revealed some improvements. These strategies are often reversible, time-consuming, short-lived with either cell aggregates formation, not cost-effective as well as not user- and eco-friendly too. To address these challenges, cell-surface interaction has been tuned by the modification of PDMS doped with different biocompatible nanomaterials. Gold nanowires (AuNWs), superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs), graphene oxide sheets (GO), and graphene quantum dot (GQD) have already been coupled to PDMS as an alternative biomaterial enabling easy and straightforward integration during microfluidic fabrication. The synthesized nanoparticles were characterized by corresponding methods. Physical cues of the nanostructured substrates such as Young’s modulus, surface roughness, and nanotopology have been carried out using atomic force microscopy (AFM). Initial biocompatibility assessment of the nanocomposites using human amniotic mesenchymal stem cells (hAMSCs) showed comparable cell viabilities among all nanostructured PDMS composites. Finally, osteogenic stem cell differentiation demonstrated an improved differentiation rate inside microfluidic devices. The results revealed that the presence of nanomaterials affected a 5- to 10-fold increase in surface roughness. In addition, the results showed enhancement of cell proliferation from 30% (pristine PDMS) to 85% (nano-modified scaffolds containing AuNWs and SPIONs), calcification from 60% (pristine PDMS) to 95% (PDMS/AuNWs), and cell surface marker expression from 40% in PDMS to 77% in SPION- and AuNWs-PDMS scaffolds at 14 day. Our results suggest that nanostructured composites have a very high potential for stem cell studies and future therapies.
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