Micropatterning is useful for regulating culture environments. We developed a highly efficient near-infrared-(NIR)-responsive gel and established a new technique that enables cell patterning by NIR irradiation. As a new culture substratum, we designed a tissue culture plate that was coated with a composite gel composed of agarose and carbon nanotubes (CNTs). A culture plate coated with agarose only showed no response to NIR irradiation. In contrast, NIR laser irradiation induced heat generation by CNTs; this permitted local solation of the CNT/agarose gel, and consequently, selective cell-adhesive regions were exposed on the tissue culture plate. The solation area was controlled by the NIR intensity, magnification of the object lens and CNT concentration in the gel. Furthermore, we formed circular patterns of HeLa cells and linear patterns of 3T3 cells on the same culture plate through selective and stepwise NIR irradiation of the CNT/agarose gel, and we also demonstrated that individual 3T3 cells migrated along a linear path formed on the CNT/agarose gel by NIR irradiation. These results indicate that our technique is useful for tailor-made cell patterning of stepwise and/or complex cell patterns, which has various biological applications such as stepwise co-culture and the study of cell migration.
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