Micropatterning techniques provide direct control over the spatial organization of cells at the sub-mm scale. Regulation of these spatial parameters is important for controlling cell fate and cell function. While micropatterning has proved a powerful technique for understanding the impact of cell organization on cell behaviour, current methods for micropatterning cells require complex, specialized equipment that is not readily accessible in most biological and bioengineering laboratories. In addition, currently available methods require significant protocol optimization to ensure reliable and reproducible patterning. The inaccessibility of current methods has severely limited the widespread use of micropatterning as a tool in both biology and tissue engineering laboratories. Here we present a simple, cheap, and fast method to micropattern mammalian cells into stripes and circular patterns using Parafilm™, a common material found in most biology and bioengineering laboratories. Our method does not require any specialized equipment and does not require significant method optimization to ensure reproducible patterning. Although our method is limited to simple patterns, these geometries are sufficient for addressing a wide range of biological problems. Specifically, we demonstrate i) that using our Parafilm™ insert method we can pattern and co-pattern ARPE-19 and MDCK epithelial cells into circular and stripe micropatterns in tissue culture polystyrene (TCPS) wells and on glass slides, ii) that we can contain cells in the desired patterns for more than one month and iii) that upon removal of the Parafilm™ insert we can release the cells from the containment pattern and allow cell migration outward from the original pattern. We also demonstrate that we can exploit this confinement release feature to conduct an epithelial cell wound healing assay. This novel micropatterning method provides a reliable and accessible tool with the flexibility to address a wide range of biological and engineering problems that require control over the spatial and temporal organization of cells
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