Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) promise various novel neural biomedical applications for interfacing neurons with electronic devices or to design appropriate biomaterials for tissue regeneration. In this study, we use a new methodology to pattern SiO2 cell culture surfaces with double-walled carbon nanotubes (DWNTs). In contrast to homogeneous surfaces, patterned surfaces allow us to investigate new phenomena about the interactions between neural cells and CNTs. Our results demonstrate that thin layers of DWNTs can serve as effective substrates for neural cell culture. Growing neurons sense the physical and chemical properties of the local substrate in a contact-dependent manner and retrieve essential guidance cues. Cells exhibit comparable adhesion and differentiation scores on homogeneous CNT layers and on a homogeneous control SiO2 surface. Conversely, on patterned surfaces, it is found that cells preferentially grow on CNT patterns and that neurites are guided by micrometric CNT patterns. To further elucidate this observation, we investigate the interactions between CNTs and proteins that are contained in the cell culture medium by using quartz crystal microbalance measurements. Finally, we show that protein adsorption is enhanced on CNT features and that this effect is thickness dependent. CNTs seem to act as a sponge for culture medium elements, possibly explaining the selectivity in cell growth localization and differentiation.
Elucidation of the Role of Carbon Nanotube Patterns on the Development of Cultured Neuronal Cells