Micropatterned poly(dimethylsiloxane) substrates fabricated by soft lithography led to large-scale orientation of myoblasts in culture, thereby controlling the orientation of the myotubes they formed. Fusion occurred on many chemically identical surfaces in which varying structures were arranged in square or hexagonal lattices, but only a subset of patterned surfaces yielded aligned myotubes. Remarkably, on some substrates, large populations of myotubes oriented at a reproducible acute angle to the lattice of patterned features. A simple geometrical model predicts the angle and extent of orientation based on maximizing the contact area between the myoblasts and patterned topographic surfaces. Micropatterned substrates also provided short-range cues that influenced higher-order functions such as the localization of focal adhesions and accumulation of postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors. Our results represent what we believe is a new approach for musculoskeletal tissue engineering, and our model sheds light on mechanisms of myotube alignment in vivo.
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