Simultaneous Visualization of Wet Cells and Nanostructured Biomaterials in SEM using Ionic Liquids
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This work presents a successful methodology to image mammalian cells adhered to nanostructured titanium by using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) operating in low-vacuum mode following ionic liquid treatment. Human osteoblast-like Saos-2 cells were treated with a room-temperature ionic liquid, 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium tetrafluoroborate, and subsequently imaged on titanium by SEM. Titanium substrates were modified to create laser-induced periodic surface structures (LIPSS) for visualization at the submicron scale. By using a combination of fluorescence-based cell metabolism along with light microscopy and SEM image analysis, the shape and location of irradiated cells were confirmed to be unchanged after multiple irradiation sessions; the viability of minimally irradiated cells was also unaltered. The wet imaging conditions combined with a rapid facile protocol using ionic liquid allows this technique to fulfill a niche in examining cellular behavior on biomaterials with submicron surface features. The demonstrated method to track observed cell adhesion to submicron surface features by SEM has great implications for understanding cell migration on nanostructured surfaces as well as the exploration of simpler SEM preparation methods for cellular imaging.
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