3D-nanoprinting micropyramids for capturing living cells


Scientists from the University of Twente, the Netherlands have developed a field full of microscopic pyramids for cell research, thanks to 3D micro and nano scale fabrication.

Material left in the tip

The technology used to achieve this, known as 'corner lithography', was in fact discovered by chance. If you join a number of flat silicon surfaces in a sharp corner, it is possible to deposit another material on them. After having removed the material, however, a small amount of material remains in the corner. This tiny tip can be used for an Atomic Force Microscope or in this case, for forming a micro pyramid.

Fabrication of a whole array of open-sided pyramids on a membrane


Catching cells

The micropyramids are actually 'cages' for cells. Moved by capillary fluid flow, these cells automatically 'fall' into the pyramid through a hole at the bottom. Soon after they settle in their 3D cage, cells begin to interact with cells in adjacent pyramids. Changes in the phenotype of the cell can now be studied in a better way than in the usual 2D situation. It is therefore a promising tool to be used in for example tissue regeneration research.

Tiny balls captured by the micro pyramids. (Images credit: Twente)

The Dutch scientists expect to develop extensions for this technology: the edges of the pyramid can be made hollow and function as fluid channels. Between the pyramids, it is also possible to create nanofluidic channels, for example used to feed the cells.

Researchers will present this new technology and its first applications in the journal Small at the beginning of December.


Source: University of Twente

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