The protein patterning technique's flexibility and precision is shown in a fluorescent microscale version of 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'
Santiago Costantino, at the University of Montreal, and colleagues used laser-assisted protein adsorption by photobleaching to create the protein patterns. He used a laser to bind a fluorescent compound called biotin-4-fluorescein (B4F) to a protein-coated glass surface. By moving the laser around and varying the intensity of the beam, he created patterns of B4F with varying thickness. He then bound other proteins and antibodies to the surface to create fluorescent and biologically active protein surfaces.
Costantino showed that the protein patterns can be used to guide nerve fibres' direction of growth. He says he hopes this will be useful in neuroscience and immunology, for example in repairing nerve damage. He also demonstrated the technique's flexibility and precision by patterning a fluorescent microscale version of the 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' painting by Veermer.
'One of the advantages the method is its accessibility, says Costantino - the technology uses equipment readily available in a typical neuroscience lab. 'We believe that our approach will lead to a major boost in the number of groups that can access new technologies for protein patterning,' he says.
'What impresses me is the dynamic range of protein adsorption that they are able to achieve, coupled to a versatile immobilisation scheme that allows for attaching just about anything to the surface,' says Albert Folch, an expert in bioengineering from University of Washington, Seattle, US. 'Something to be worked out is the long-term stability of the pattern, since cells produce enzymes which can break down proteins during growth and migration. It would be exciting to see if the technique allows patterns of competing signals to be shown to a nerve fibre in real time as the neuron's developmental clock is ticking.'