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The thermally driven, reversible change in the surface properties of poly (N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm) hydrogels from a hydrophilic (water-swollen) state to a hydrophobic (deswollen) state when heated above the volume phase transition temperature (VPTT, ~35 oC) makes them useful in inducing controlled cell release. To improve the kinetics of swelling and deswelling, we have prepared microstructured (i.e., micropillared) thermoresponsive surfaces comprising pure PNIPAAm hydrogel and nanocomposite PNIPAAm hydrogel embedded with polysiloxane colloidal nanoparticles (~220 nm diameter, 1 wt%) via photopolymerization. The thermosensitivity (i.e., degree and rate of swelling/deswelling) of these surfaces and how it can be regulated using different micropillar sizes and densities were characterized by measuring the dynamic size changes in micropillar dimensions in response to thermal activation. Our results show that the dynamic thermal response rate can be increased by more than twofold when the micropillar size is reduced from 200 to 100 μm. The temperature-controlled cell release behaviors of pure PNIPAAm and nanocomposite PNIPAAm micropatterned surfaces were successfully characterized using mesenchymal progenitor cells (10T1/2). This study demonstrates that the thermosensitivity of PNIPAAm surfaces can be regulated by introducing micropillars of different sizes and densities, while maintaining good temperature-controlled cell release behavior.

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