A methodology for the systematic and quantitative study of cell contact guidance in oriented collagen gels. Correlation of fibroblast orientation and gel birefringence

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Abstract

Despite the likely role of contact guidance in every physiological process involving cell migration, its study in a three-dimensional tissue-equivalent environment has been precluded, heretofore, by inherent difficulties in systematically preparing well-defined contact guidance fields and quantifying the resultant contact guidance. Here, we describe a novel use of a magnetic field to orient collagen fibrils during fibrillogenesis, entrapping cells dispersed in the collagen solution. Using computer-controlled staging and image analysis, we show from automated birefringence measurements of the resultant slab of cell-populated gel contained in a specially designed observation chamber that the fibril orientation is biased along the long axis of the chamber uniformly throughout the chamber. Further, we show that the degree of fibril orientation, and consequently the elicited contact guidance, can be controlled by independently varying the magnetic field strength or temperature during fibrillogenesis. We characterize the contact guidance response to the imposed contact guidance field by measuring cell orientation relative to the axis of fibril orientation from still images obtained in time-lapse via automated image analysis. We present the first quantitative correlation of contact guidance (based on cell orientation) with collagen fibril orientation (based on birefringence) for human foreskin fibroblasts cultured in a collagen gel, by using gels of varying orientation resulting from different magnetic field strengths and temperatures during fibrillogenesis, and by using sufficiently low cell concentrations and early observation times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-331
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of cell science
Volume105
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993

Keywords

  • Birefringence
  • Collagen gel
  • Contact guidance
  • Fibroblasts
  • Magnetic field

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